Trying to get more veggies into your family? Tired of potatoes? Every vegetable has a ‘best way’ of cooking and for root vegetables, it’s NOT boiling. Boiling leaches a lot of the nutritional value out of the vegetables in any case. Trust your Aunt Toby on this one: boiled beets, boiled potatoes, boiled turnips is just not the heating method to bring out their best.
Roasting is the deal. Whether wrapped in foil on the grill or in a pan (with or without a beast on top of it) in the oven, roasting is good for root veggies for primarily one reason: The heat transforms the starch (and all root veggies have carbs up the gazoo) into sugars, so the vegetables taste sweeter than they do either raw (and there is nothing wrong with eating raw root veggies, including potatoes and recent research points to eating raw root veggies in terms of preventing colon cancer. raw potatoes
But, we are not talking raw (raw, raw, raw..that’s the spirit) today. We’re talking roasted. I think everyone at some time has had potatoes that have been roasted, and in many families, roasting them by putting them under the meat in a roasting pan is traditional (and causes fights at the dinner table, I might add).
General guidelines for roasting root veggies (and if you do a search on ‘roasting root veggies’ be prepared to be inundated with responses; this is a cooking method that has just taken off over the past ten years):
All root veggies do NOT take the same amount of time. If you throw all the veggies into the pan in the oven, you will end up with ‘three bears veggies”: some overcooked; some undercooked; and some just right. Best to check how long each individual vegetable needs, prepare them in different pans (or foil wraps), set a timer and put them in as you need them.
The temperature to roast veggies (by themselves) is 400 degrees F. if you are roasting them in the bottom of the roasting pan with meat, they will be done when the meat is done.
Put a little water or other liquid in the wrap or pan with the veggies so that they do not burn. All veggies will have a certain amount of moisture in them which will carry them through the roasting process, but at the beginning, a little ‘juice’ in the bottom helps the vegetables to start releasing their own moisture and will prevent burning.
Roasted root vegetables can be served hot (as in the roast potatoes under the meat from the oven) or, they can be allowed to chill and be turned into all sorts of lovely dishes. Just do a search on ‘roasted root salad’ and see what you get.
And speaking of roasted root salad, here is my version of a Roasted beet and carrot salad with onions and oranges (there are quite a few versions of this out there – this is just mine and involves sticking my head in the fridge to see what is there that I can use). This makes enough for 4-6 people (depending on how many teenagers you have or how much people like beets and carrots).
Beets: I had two fist-sized one and one Moby Dick beet out of the garden, I trimmed off the root end and left a little bit of the stems. Beets bleed and there is no way around it; the less you cut them, the less they bleed.
Carrots: I have a bunch of carrots I pulled up and trimmed both ends and cut the biggest ones vertically in half. I wash and scrub mine well – I don’t peel them because a lot of the nutritional good stuff is just under the skin.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Put the beets with a little water (like less than a ½ inch in the bottom of the pan) in a pan and cover. I put mine into a loaf pan and put aluminum foil on it and sealed it up. Put in the oven and leave for 1 hour (beets take 1.5 hours by themselves).
Put the carrots into another pan and cover. Put in the oven with the beets for the last half hour.
Take out of the oven and allow to cool. While they are cooling, do the following:
Red onion: Thinly slice about a cup of red onions.
Oranges: Prepare two oranges as if you are going to make fruit salad to get the outside membranes off them (see the photo).
2 tablespoons of light olive oil (the stuff for sautéing and baking)
2 tablespoons of a mild nut (I used almonds – others that can be used would be hazel nuts, filberts, or something like sunflower seeds). If you want to use this as a main dish instead of a side dish, you will need to add more protein: more nuts and seeds, or nuts and some form of cheese or perhaps cooked and cooled beans (black beans would go well here, I think).
1 tablespoon of fresh coriander (if you can’t get fresh, 1 tsp. Of dried coriander)
½ cup of fruit juice: orange juice, grapefruit juice, combinations thereof (you could probably also use a couple of tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar).
Pour this over the onions and oranges.
When the carrots and beets are all cool, peel the beets (this is easy – cut the top with the stems off and the bottom off and put a knife under the peel at the top and pull – it will come right off and sometimes the whole thing will come off in one pull). Then slice the carrots and beets into bite-sized pieces. Combine with the onions, nuts, oranges and the dressing. Refrigerate and serve.