Not many of us have root cellars these days; even our garages tend to be heated. Root vegetables, though, are plentiful year round, and some of the supply will be locally grown. Since local produce is going to be a little harder to find as we move toward Thanksgiving, you might consider giving freezer space to some roasted roots; you can pull the bag out of the freezer on a chilly day and measure out just what you need for a side dish or a soup. Beets, parsnips, and leeks are especially good roasted, in combinations or on their own.
To Roast a Leek:
Cut off the dark green leaves and the bottom root end; discard.
Slice your leek lengthwise and rinse thoroughly, fanning out the internal layers without taking them completely apart. You just won’t believe how far in the sand and grit can get.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired; brush with olive oil.
Place in an oiled roasting pan and roast in a preheated 400F oven for about 35-45 minutes, sprinkling from time to time with vegetable stock to keep it moist.
Choose smaller parsnips; they have smaller cores.
Peel as you would a carrot, quarter lengthwise or cut into coins about ½” thick.
Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and perhaps some chopped herbs.
Roast in a preheated 375F oven for about 45 minutes or until tender.
Borscht (Beet Soup) – Equally Good Hot or Cold
First, prepare the beets: Cut off the greens, wash the beets, wrap them individually in foil, and roast them in a 400F oven until a knife goes in with no resistance whatever. When the beets have cooled enough to be handled, rub off their skins with a dish cloth you don’t mind throwing away (it will be permanently stained). At this point you can freeze the beets for later use.
Grate the beets into a bowl or saucepan; add water and cider vinegar to taste.
Garnish with sour cream and fresh or dried dill.
Prepare these exactly as you would baked potatoes. When they are done, cut them lengthwise and scoop out the flesh. Freeze for use in casseroles (add a streusel topping or maple syrup and your favorite chopped nuts) or in sweet breads.
Sausage, Potato and Leek Soup for Two
(adapted from Gourmet)
¼ tsp cumin seed
¼ tsp caraway seeds
The white part of 2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, washed well, sliced thin crosswise, and drained (about 1 ¼ cups)
1 tbs unsalted butter
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 or 2 small boiling potatoes, halved (red ”B” potatoes work best; use fingerlings if you can find them)
1 lb kielbasa, cut crosswise into ¼” rounds
In a dry heavy saucepan toast the seeds over moderate heat, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until they are very fragrant, and transfer them to a plate.
In the same pan, cook the leek in butter, stirring occasionally, (unless you already roasted some, clever you). The leeks should be very soft.
Stir in the broth and the potatoes.
Add the toasted seeds and the kielbasa; heat just enough to warm the kielbasa.
By the time you read this, the Winona Farmers’ Market 2010 may be just a memory, but your quest for good locally grown seasonal produce is already yielding results in other local sources of supply. We have seen local produce featured in supermarkets and beyond, so it must be selling. Do keep up the good work by supporting vendors of seasonal foods and by telling them what you think. Stay warm this winter, and keep Spring in your step!
This column of good eating is brought to you by members and friends of the Winona County EDA Local Foods Committee and UM Master Gardeners. Questions or comments? Contact us: email@example.com