Create: The Root of the Matter


When was the last time you bought a rutabaga or a parsnip?

Photography by Cindy Momchilov :: Food styled by Muriel H. Wilkins


Root vegetables are not particularly attractive, and they can be a bit puzzling, even mysterious, but these denizens of winter shine when roasted. Once peeled, they’re easy to prepare in a multitude of ways: You can cut them into strips, cubes or slices, and you can control the texture, from firm to puree. Once roasted, they are versatile and will serve in soups, as side dishes or appetizers, or as the main course. Further, their orange, red and yellow hues serve as reminders of bright, sunshiny days. Here are a variety of menu suggestions to warm up your January — each a tasty opportunity to try something new.

Dutch Oven Root Vegetables

Dutch Oven Root Vegetables

Dutch Oven Root Vegetables

Chefs Shane Henderson of Ben E. Keith and Brian Kearns from Simply the Best Catering teamed up recently to do a fantastic pig roast. While the pig was wonderful, the roasted root vegetables they served with it really got my attention. Henderson used a cast-iron Dutch oven over the fire with the pig and stirred in a spoonful of the drippings from the roast.

  • 3 pieces of bacon
  • 2 pounds assorted root vegetables – butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, beets, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips
  • 1 to 2 medium red onions
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated, and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon honey, more if you would like
  • 1 tablespoon butter or really good olive oil

Peel and cut all the vegetables into same-sized pieces. Cut the onions through the base core to keep some of the layers in chunks. Toss all the vegetables with garlic, olive oil, salt and heavy pepper in a large bowl.

Place the bacon on the bottom of a large Dutch oven, top with the vegetable mixture and thyme. Place the lid on top. Of course, since you are using a Dutch oven, ideally you have an open fire to place it on. If not, just place it in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees.

Roast the vegetables until tender and golden brown, about 1 to 1½ hours; stir occasionally. When they are just beginning to get tender — about an hour in — add the honey and stir through. You do not want the honey to caramelize, burning the mixture. Just before serving, toss in the butter or olive oil, and stir. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Yields about 12 servings.

Chef’s Note: I cut the vegetables into 1½-inch pieces. Also I roast and hold beets separately if I am using them to keep the juice from mixing with everything else.

An alternative cooking method: You can roast the vegetables at 425 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes on preheated baking sheets that have been brushed with olive oil or lined with foil. Or sauté them on the stovetop in a heavy skillet.

Variation: Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to vegetable olive oil mixture before roasting.

Courtesy of Shane Henderson, executive chef, Mid-South Division, Ben E. Keith, Inc.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Here’s another way to use your roasted root vegetables.

  • 4 cups roasted root vegetables
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 cups leafy greens, such as kale, spinach or a combination, roughly chopped into ribbons
  • ½ cup frozen peas, thawed, to garnish

Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium pot. Add the roasted vegetables and bring back to steaming. When ready to serve, stir in the greens and peas. Taste, and add salt and pepper.

Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Variation: Add white beans or orzo to create a substantial, hearty and warming dish. Add artisan bread and a green salad to make a complete meal.


O N L I N E   E X C L U S I V E


Savory Winter Squash Galette

This main course recipe combines butternut squash and pumpkin, but you could substitute, or add, roasted root vegetables like carrots, parsnips or turnips.

  • 1 small butternut squash, about 2 pounds
  • 5 garlic cloves, separated but not peeled
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin — not pumpkin pie filling
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the squash
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 10 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
Galette Dough Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour or combination
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water, as needed

Make the dough. Stir flour and salt together in a bowl. Cut in the butter by hand or by using a mixer with a paddle attachment, leaving some pea-sized chunks. Sprinkle the ice water over the top by the tablespoon and toss it with the flour mixture until you can bring the dough together into a ball. Press it into a disk, and refrigerate for 15 minutes if the butter feels soft.

Roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds and brush the cut surface with oil. Stuff the garlic into the cavities. Place the squash, cut side down, on a foil-covered sheet pan. Bake until the flesh is tender, about 45 minutes. Scoop out the squash and squeeze the softened garlic from the peels. Add the pumpkin and mash them together with a fork until fairly smooth, leaving some texture. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sage, and cook until the onion is soft and beginning to color, about 12 minutes. Add to the squash mixture. Stir in grated cheese, salt and pepper to taste.

Roll out the dough into a 14-inch circle and transfer it to a parchment-covered cookie sheet without sides. Spread the filling over it, leaving a border of 2 inches or more. Pleat the dough over the filling, and then brush the edges with beaten egg. Bake at 375 degrees until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes.

Yields 6 servings.

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

Oven Roasted Carrots from Oven and Tap

Often in cooking, simple is best — the less you do to an ingredient, the better the taste. When I am in a hurry and have carrots from my garden, I use a method that I learned at Oven and Tap restaurant in Bentonville, Ark., last summer. These make a great first course as well as a side dish.

  • 1 pound whole carrots
  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • pinch salt
To serve:
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon snipped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Slice the carrots lengthwise into pencil-sized strips. Toss them into a hot, cast-iron skillet with the oil and salt; cook on medium-high heat until the carrots are soft and browned. To serve, dress them with freshly squeezed lemon juice, a bit of honey and garnish with a sprinkle of feta cheese and Italian parsley.

At Oven and Tap, they roasted the carrots in the 900-degree wood oven. Your home oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so will work, too. Yum!

Questions? Faith can be reached via email at

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