This is a technique more than a recipe, and it’s one that all Maine cooks interested in local food should have in their repertoire. During Maine’s long, cold winters, if you plan to eat local vegetables, expect to eat root vegetables. And during the spring, before the asparagus and the fiddleheads and the pea tendrils have made an appearance, expect to eat a lot more root vegetables.
As far as we can remember, Barbara Kafka pioneered the technique of roasting in her 1995 cookbook, “Roasting: A Simple Art.” As she wrote, “When you’re hungry, roast./ When you’re in a rush, roast./ When you’re in doubt, roast./ When you’re entertaining, roast.” We really can’t remember how we managed before we befriended roasted root vegetables – they are nature’s candy.
We bought our root vegetable mix at the Wednesday farmers market a few days ago in Portland’s Monument Square, courtesy of Two Farmers Farm in Scarborough and Alewive’s Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth. Farmer Dominic Pascarelli (Two Farmers Farm) suggested we roast his impossible-to-resist jumbo hot pink turnips, a variety called “Scarlet Queen.” What an excellent idea. So we purchased those, and on his advice, potatoes, parsnips and carrots, too. Pascarelli says he roasts vegetables with nothing but olive oil, salt and pepper. He added that the other farmer in the farm’s name (his wife) would probably add herbs. The important thing is to cut all the vegetables the same size so they roast at the same rate.
Roasted Root Vegetables
Cut the vegetables the same size; the smaller the pieces, the faster they will roast. You don’t want them itty-bitty or they will shrivel to nothingness in the oven. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and any hearty herbs (rosemary is nice).
Arrange them on a sheet pan in a single layer, flat sides down. If you are feeling fussy, put each vegetable on its on own sheet pan, as different vegetables roast at slightly different rates. Remember you will be washing more dishes in this case, a pity for such an undemanding dish.
Roast the vegetables in a preheated 425-degree oven, stirring gently once or twice, until easily pierced with a fork and browned in spots. Drizzle with a mix of balsamic vinegar and maple syrup – or soy sauce and rice vinegar, or pomegranate molasses and honey or …. Remember you are the one eating these, not us, so make them to suit your palate. Parsnips, carrots, potatoes and turnips are good. But so are rutabaga, radishes, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and celery root. If you can resist eating them when they are warm, roasted vegetables are equally delicious at room temperature.