In recent months I’ve been making some progress on my cooking skills — venturing off the recipe path to innovate or at least add more of the flavors I love most. A recent visit with friends left me even more wistful of those who boldly go where no recipes exist. Building toothsome dishes based on their culinary knowledge and tastes.
So on my recent visit he crafted two dishes which left me wanting more and an anti-social desire to rub them all over my face. And what were the amazing dishes? One was a kale, garlic, mushroom, tomato, onion based rice dish. And the other, winter comfort food.
Comfort food in the form of roasted root vegetables caramelized with balsamic vinegar. I aspire to no other comfort! The rice dish I didn’t master, but at least finally managed a passable copy. The root vegetable dish I was nervous about. I mean, I didn’t even know I liked parsnips. or beets. or cooked carrots. (Actually I knew I didn’t like cooked carrots.) So how could I possibly figure out to how to make this dish.
One day my longing gets the better of me so I head to the produce section of my grocery store, get confused, and text my friends for instructions on which root vegetables to buy.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Parsnips (I didn’t even know what one looked like)
- Fingerling potatoes
- Avoid turnips or rutabegas (sp?)
I finally find all those items, buy them, and panic. For a week they sit in my fridge until it’s time to go home for the holidays. Dismayed by the idea of losing $15 in produce, I stick most of the ingredients in my checked bags in the hopes I’ll make the recipe at my parents’.
And I finally did! So the instructions I got from my master chef friend was in two text messages: cut up all of the above ingredients, toss them in oil, bake them at 425-450 for 45-60 minutes. Stir occasionally, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper 20 minutes before pulling them out. Easy right?
Well the first problem is I don’t know how one prepares parsnips, so I google it. Apparently you want small ones (mine was huge bc it was $5 per parsnip, not per lb). If you have a large one, you need to peel it and then remove the woody core. Well, the core looked the same as the rest of it, so I just hacked away at removing the middle, hoping for the best.
The second was that I didn’t know how to prep beets. Another google, you peel and quarter them.
I managed the carrots and onions, but then panicked at the sweet potatoes. Do you peel them or just scrub them really well??? I opted to peel and that turned out ok.
Then I tossed all of this in oil and poured onto a cookie sheet to roast. I poured too many and in retrospect I’d do multiple batches to make sure they have enough room to roast. I’d also (in retrospect) cut the pieces much smaller, maybe only 1-2 inches in size for everything except sweet potatoes and onions so they’ll cook more evenly.
But at the 20 min mark I looked in and they seemed to be happily roasting. I turned them over and then started stirring them about every 10 minutes. At the 40 minute mark I drizzled lots of balsamic vinegar and generous amounts of fresh ground pepper and salt. From that point on I stirred every 5 minutes, finally pulling out the pan around the 58 minute mark.
And it turned out great! Everything had a really nice crunchy crust with warm, fairly soft, insides and the most glorious sweet tanginess with no sugar added other than the balsamic. You may want to improve upon the presentation though. 🙂