Sunday, October 23, 2011

Root Vegetable Goodness

Okay, so I've concluded that the fall is my favorite cooking season.  There.  I've done it.  A significant contributing factor: I am wild for root vegetables!  They're warm, snuggly, and satisfying.  But unlike some other foods meeting those criteria (pie crust, anyone?), they can actually be healthy!  Here are a couple recent dishes we've made to celebrate these little jewels.

Butternut Squash Gratin (Click here for recipe)

This tasty dish is roasted butternut squash layered on top of creamed spinach.  I selected this to make for a friend who just had a baby.  This darling gal is gluten intolerant, so I was pleased that the sauce for the spinach was thickened with corn starch instead of a classic roux.  What also really drew my attention was the topping, which is a mixture of fresh grated parmesan cheese and creme fraiche.  I mean, how could I not make this?

So there are kind of a lot of steps here.  But when I find something new and interesting (a departure from the standard pasta casserole) that can be frozen in advance, I do the happy dance.  The first step is slicing and roasting the butternut squash.

Meanwhile, fresh spinach takes a bath in salted boiling water to wilt.  After realizing that I'd be turning piles and piles (I doubled this recipe; one for them, one for us.) of fresh spinach leaves into the cooked, chopped version, I wondered why the heck I didn't just buy a box of frozen spinach, thaw it and squeeze the water out.  The picture below justifies the effort.  Look how bright and beautiful it is peaking out from underneath the squash.  By the way, I use my a potato ricer for the water squeezing part.  It's fast, easy, and spares my hands of being frozen and/or tinted green.

I had to include this picture too for the cute 2-yr old in the background.  She was waiting to see if I'd have any of the rind to spare with the hopes of gnawing on it.  So my kid.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

The roasting process turns these babies into caramelized goodness.  I just tossed them with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and roasted at 400 for about 20 minutes. 

These accompanied a delish appetizer-made-dinner (we do that all the time!), which is totally worthy of a mention: Marinated portobello mushrooms with asiago

These shrooms are marinated in a flavorful mixture of balsamic vinegar, fresh rosemary, soy sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper.  It imparts tremendous flavor in a really short time (weeknight doable!).  Next, they are grilled and topped with shredded asiago cheese, breadcrumbs and fresh parsley...then grilled a little more.  YUM.  Well, let me qualify that.. the kids hated 'em.  Like, they really hated them.  I suppose I should have expected that; I do believe I detested all things mushroom until well into adulthood.  But I still try to expose the kids to new flavors as often as possible, figuring they definitely won't like something if they never have a chance to try it.  Anyway, I'll clarify here that this was exclusively a grown-up YUM.

Coconut Glazed Sweet Potatoes (Click here for recipe)

(Photo courtesy of, as the author's picture was entirely unsuccessful)

I love the sweet and spicy thing, and especially where coconut is concerned.  The glaze is rich and sweet; but the brightness of the fresh lime prevents it from being heavy.  The jalepeno puts the period on the sentence with a perfect amount of heat.  These Weber guys sure know what they're talking about. 

I was a huge fan of this dish, because it tasted great.  Hub loved it because he got to do this:

Happy Fall cooking!


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