I used to work part-time at a food cooperative in Portland, Oregon, and the produce manager there used to place bets with volunteers that every week they could find something on his small but mighty produce display that they had never eaten before. This was the kind of bet you make because you know the odds (or because you order the produce, and you know the farmers.) This was a real point of pride– and illustrative of the amazing diversity of farming going on in Oregon. That produce rack introduced me to watermelon radishes, lemon cucumbers, gold beets, countless strange looking summer squash, and some incredible tomatoes I later grew myself in Oregon.
But it got me thinking, since I sometimes find myself afraid to cook with new ingredients, or having difficulty getting those I eat meals with to try new vegetables: how do you really get people to eat veggies they aren’t used to seeing?
I mean, we have so much to choose from nowadays at the store– but so much of it is shipped from around the world. That is the irony: moving food around the globe has made us less adventurous eaters in most cases. All this time, delicious nutritious root vegetables grown near most of us are just sitting in the back row, looking dejected as the countless shoppers pick up another $4 clamshell of blueberries shipped from Chile. I made two batches of this recipe, and even with the added cost of all organic produce and an expensive bunch of thyme, the bill was less than $7. And I still have carrots and thyme leftover. Oh, and did I mention, this dish is BEAUTIFUL to look at?
Sometimes the best way to introduce less conventional foods into the palette is to mix it with more familiar foods, and to make it slightly difficult to identify, causing the eater to pause and try to guess what they are eating, but then take another bite. This is how my roasted root vegetables dish evolved– I just continued to add things that interested me. So far, people have devoured it, despite the fact that they can usually only identify two of the five roots by taste.
This is a great dish if you want to fill your house with good aromas. It is also good if you are too lazy to make mashed potatoes, or some other traditional side. But mostly it goes with almost anything, since it has a sweet, salty, herby set of flavors, with a little spice from the turnips. The whole garlic cloves turn to carmelized jewels. We ate this with grilled chicken one night, and lamb chops another night. Pretty much you want to grab all the funny looking root veggies you can find at your grocer, and go to town.
Cutting everything small speeds up the cooking and browning. This is so easy, it is a good recipe for those new to cooking. If you can find yams or sweet potatoes with a nice tender skin, leave the skin on.
Roasted Root Vegetables
- 1 large rutabaga
- 1 large turnip
- 1 large parsnip
- 2-3 medium carrots
- 1 large yam
- 4-5 cloves garlic, whole, peeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tamari/ soy sauce
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme, picked and roughly chopped
- 2 tsps. maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Chop all vegetables into piece about 1/2-1 inch thick. Peel beets, carrots, parsnips, yams. Trim the ends and any roots or rough spots off of the turnip and rutabaga. Trim both ends off each clove of garlic and rub to remove the peel. Pile the veggies onto a large rimed baking sheet.
- Mix the marinade in a jar and shake. Pour over the vegetables and mix with your hands spreading everything into a single layer.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, until fork tender.