Now is the time to pull out the bounty of vegetables stored for winter
During the last growing season my wife and I subscribed to a consumer supported agriculture (CSA) group called Grubshed. For an agreed sum of money we received a weekly supply of locally grown, organically raised produce beginning in June and lasting into October.
What a deal that turned out to be! We had no trouble consuming all of our summer produce and herbs, but our last pickup, which included many pounds of winter squash, red and yellow onions, storage potatoes and beets, is what we've been enjoying during the last couple of months.
I say enjoying because we haven't had to buy any of these vegetables for months now, and what we still have on hand will surely last until the spring.
But having tens of pounds of any vegetable in one's larder can be daunting. After all, how many ways are there to cook squash, onions and potatoes?
Well, let me tell you, there are more ways than you might think.
Winter squash is delicious baked, mashed, pureed, made into custards, used as a filling for ravioli, sweetened and turned into pie fillings, and even grilled. Onions may be sliced raw into a salad, braised, chopped to add to meat loaf mixtures, turned into soup, cooked in casseroles with rice, and added to all sorts of sautes as a seasoning.
And potatoes? Well, their use is virtually limitless.
Roasting, I have found, does wonders for all these vegetables. And when each is seasoned individually, a mixed "grill" so to speak makes a very welcome presence at the table.
Greg Patent writes a monthly column about food for the Missoulian. His cookbook, "Baking in America," won the 2003 James Beard Award in the baking category. Patent co-hosts a weekly radio show about food with Jon Jackson Sundays at noon on KUFM.
Roasted Squash, Red Onions and Potatoes
An assortment of roasted winter vegetables can make a meal in itself or serve as an accompaniment to just about any meat, poultry or fish dish.
I went into our "root cellar" (actually a walk-in closet adjoining our garage where winter temperatures range between 40 and 50 degrees) and came out with an oval-shaped winter squash with m ulticolored fluted sides (darned if I know its name), a couple of red onions, and a few red-skinned potatoes.
Feel free to use any winter squash. Butternut is always a good choice. Each vegetable is given a different seasoning, which adds variety of flavor.
The recipe may be multiplied any number of times.
1 1/2 pounds winter squash
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground hot paprika
2 large (1 to 1 1/4 pounds total) red onions
3/4 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme leaves
3 large (1 1/2 pounds total) red-skinned potatoes
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano leaves
Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet (18x12x1-inch) lightly with olive oil or olive oil spray. Set aside.
Remove seeds and fibers from the squash and cut the squash (peeled or unpeeled) into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Put the squash into a medium-size bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the cumin, both paprikas and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Toss well and arrange and slices slightly apart on one-third of the baking sheet.
Peel and cut the onions in half vertically. Cut each half into 4 wedges and put them into the same bowl as the squash. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and the thyme. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss gently and carefully to keep the onion wedges intact.
Arrange the onions with a cut side down on the center portion of the baking sheet.
Peel the potatoes and cut each in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 3 lengthwise wedges. Add the potatoes to the same bowl as the onions and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the oregano.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat the potatoes well with the seasonings.
Arrange the potatoes with a cut side down on the last third of the baking sheet.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn the vegetables over with a wide metal spatula. Return the pan to the oven and bake another 20 to 25 minutes, until the vegetables have browned slightly. Serve hot or warm.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Roasted Beet Salad with Horseradish Cream
I checked my basement refrigerator and found a few pounds of beets I'd stored there in October. They were part of our last Grubshed harvest and I'd almost completely forgotten about them. But they were in fine shape: firm, and with a thin layer of soil clinging to their skins.
For best results, use medium-sized beets. The dressing for this salad has a nice peppery kick from the horseradish and mustard - a nice contrast with the sweetness of the beets.
2 pounds (about 7 or 8) red beets
3/4 cup sour cream (use the real thing)
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Trim the stems of the beets to a 1-inch length. (If you are using supermarket beets and the greens are in good shape, cook them up separately). Leave the root ends alone.
Wash the beets and shake off excess water.
Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets in a single layer securely in aluminum foil and place the package on a baking sheet and into the oven.
Bake about 1 1/2 hours, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and let the beets cool to room temperature.
Unwrap the package. Slice the stem and root ends off the beets and peel off the skins. Cut the beets into 1/4-inch dice.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, horseradish, mustard, vinegar and salt and pepper. Add the beets and fold together to enrobe the beets completely in the dressing.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
May be made 2 or 3 days ahead.
Makes 6 servings.