I enjoy the four seasons we have here in the Upper Midwest. There is value to slowing down in the winter. By March, however, the Wisconsin winter becomes a bit tedious. I start to long for the farmers’ markets of the other three seasons with their supply of fresh vegetables and fruits. How appropriate, however, that it is those vegetables that have spent the longest time in, and under, the ground, and that store well all winter that can rescue us.
Flavor can be coaxed from seemingly routine vegetables like carrots, potatoes, carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes and many other root vegetables by oven roasting them. Adding cauliflower to the mix provides texture and flavor variety. They are then ready to be used in several solo meals, lunch or dinner.
You’ll need a large mixing bowl to toss the chopped veggies with olive oil, a baking sheet pan or roasting pan with sides and your chef knife, cutting board and vegetable peeler. Purchase the veggies of your choice. Here’s a good start.
- 3 carrots, fairly thick (I’ve got the rest of the bag on hand for salad or a hummus snack),
- 1 cauliflower, small to medium head,
- 1 large onion,
- 1 sweet potato,
- 1 Idaho potato (I bought 3 and made baked potatoes with the other two),
- extra virgin olive oil,
- coarse sea salt.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare vegetables by cutting each into a chunky medium dice. Each should be roughly the same size as the other, but don’t worry if they are not exact. Round items will often have a few odd shaped pieces. Keep the chopped cauliflower set aside separately.
Cut the carrots on a slight angle to achieve a wider surface to roast. The sweet potato must be peeled but the Idaho potato does not as long as it is washed well. Large items like the potatoes and the onion will require a horizontal cut through the entire item to have a piece the proper size to dice. It is also much easier to work with that piece that is flat on the cutting board than trying to dice something that is round.
Put all the vegetables in the mixing bowl, except the cauliflower, and drizzle olive oil. Toss to combine so chunks are lightly coated. I don’t mind tossing the veggies and oil with my hands. My hands are so dry by the end of winter that the oil feels soothing to my skin! Lay the chopped veggies out, in a single layer on a baking tray or roasting pan with sides. Place in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, put cauliflower pieces in the mixing bowl and toss with olive oil. Pull tray from oven and add cauliflower to other vegetables. Return to oven for 12 additional minutes. Remove tray and test various pieces with a fork to make sure they are done, especially potato and sweet potato. Return to mixing bowl to cool and lightly sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Here is an opportunity for the finesse of eating solo. Various seasonings could be added such as cumin and chili powder or a Greek or Mediterranean blend with oregano and lemon or a dash of paprika or Old Bay seasoning would suit them well. I drizzled a little apple cider vinegar into this batch for some zip.
The roasted vegetables can be used as a side dish for dinner, can serve as a sort of potato salad for lunch when combined with a slight bit of mayo and mustard or they can provide the basis for a quick batch of soup or stew with that handy box of chicken stock that you hopefully always have on hand.
Once you know this technique, you can start adding in other root vegetables for even more flavor variety. Try parsnips, rutabaga, turnips or celery root, also called celeriac. Each one has a distinct flavor, a parsnip is essentially a white carrot but earthier.
The value of winter are the indoor activities like reading, writing, and yes, cooking that can help us open up new ideas that we can incorporate into future routines.