By Barbara Beltrami
With the holiday season behind us and the Omicron variant still with us and looming large, most of us have begun the new year in much the same way that we began last year. Hibernating and quarantining, testing and re-testing, we’ve had to hunker down once again and rely on simple creature comforts to assuage our disappointments over canceled plans and celebrations.
Unwilling to go to the supermarket unless absolutely necessary, I’ve been logging a lot of time in the kitchen cooking whatever I have on hand, and one of those things is root vegetables stored in the coolness of my cellar to accompany roasts and be featured in salads, soups and stews. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of potatoes and learned many new ways to cook beets, carrots and parsnips. Even radishes hidden in the back of my refrigerator’s vegetable drawer, celery root, turnips or rutabagas and leeks have found their way into some interesting new dishes.
Root Vegetable Soup
YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings
1/3 cup olive oil
2 leeks, washed and sliced
3 celery ribs, cleaned and sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Leaves from one large thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 pounds assorted root vegetables (rutabaga, turnip, potato, parsnip, carrot, celery root, golden beets) peeled and cut into one-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon
In large pot or saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Stir in leeks and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and bay leaf, cook another minute, then add root vegetables, 2 quarts water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce to simmer, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly, remove and discard bay leaf, then puree mixture in small batches with immersion or stationary blender. Stir in lemon juice and serve with crusty bread with extra virgin olive oil.
Root Vegetable Salad with Feta
YIELD: Makes 4 servings
1 red onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
1 sweet potato cut into bite-size pieces
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into 3/4” pieces
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 3/4” pieces
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into 3/4” pieces
1 beet, peeled and cut into 3/4” pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 425 F. In a medium roasting pan toss vegetables with half the olive oil, salt and pepper; stirring occasionally, roast until they are tender and starting to brown, about 35 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the remaining oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and parsley. Add cooked vegetables, toss and top with feta. Serve warm or at room temperature with poultry or meat.
Root Vegetable and Bacon Casserole
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings
1/2 pound thick sliced bacon, cut into one-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chopped peeled carrots
1 pound chopped peeled parsnip
1 pound chopped green cabbage
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
Leaves from 3 thyme sprigs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
11/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 large potato or sweet potato, peeled and sliced very thin
In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon, remove and drain on paper towels; remove all but one tablespoon melted fat and discard. Add olive oil to one tablespoon remaining fat, then add vegetables, thyme, salt and pepper and toss to thoroughly combine and coat. Cook, stirring frequently, about 10 to 15 minutes, until vegetables are browned.
Add broth, bring to a boil, then lower to simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in bacon, arrange potato slices on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and brush with remaining tablespoon oil. Place under broiler and cook until potatoes are golden brown and crispy. Serve with a green salad.