Sunday, January 17, 2010

Roasted Root Vegetables

It is January in New York. Which means along with frigid temperatures, there isn’t much local, fresh, green produce around. But, the farmer’s market is awash in gritty, bulbous root vegetables, which, with a little TLC, can play a star turn in a fast, no-hassle and healthy supper.

I scoured the Union Square Market on Friday and poked and prodded at the hard, bulbous roots on display, and made a selection of parsnips, carrots, fennel, red onions and a mixture of Adirondack blue potatoes and the red bliss variety. Back home, I decided to cook the potatoes by themselves and throw the rest into the oven as a roasted medley.

If the thought of choosing vegetables and deciding what herbs and aromatics go with them seems alarming, there really is nothing to it. All you have to do is follow my simple formula of: Peel-Chop-Toss-Roast, and voilà, you get a delish, one-pan meal.

For the vegetable medley, I peeled and chopped the carrots and parsnips into large chunks. The onions and fennel were roughly sliced into large half-moon pieces. I tossed all of them in a roasting pan with salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil, tucked in a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme and a couple of bay leaves, and nestled 2 lemons (cut in halves) into the vegetables. Then, in they went into a 425˚F oven for 1 hour, and other than an occasional stir to make sure the veggies at the bottom got a chance to caramelise at the top, I let the dry heat of the oven work it’s magic breaking down the roots into a moist, luscious pile.

I used the same formula for the potatoes, but decided to give them a twist by introducing some Bengali paanch phoron* to the mix instead of the herbs. If you don’t have paanch phoron on hand, then just substitute it with whole cumin. I washed and dried the potatoes thoroughly, chopped them into large chunks (left the skin on), and spread them onto a sheet pan. Then, I heated 1 tbsp of canola oil in a small frying pan and added 2 tbsp of paanch phoron to the oil. When the spices had sputtered for a minute or so, I poured them (with the oil) over the potatoes, added salt, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil, and tossed well. I roasted the potatoes in a rack right under the vegetable medley for about 40 minutes, until a fork pierced the potatoes easily and the tops were golden brown.

This roasting technique is amazingly versatile and you can easily change the vegetables and herbs/spices with whatever is available seasonally or suits your fancy. The
Peel-Chop-Toss-Roast formula is in my arsenal as the ready stand-in for weeknight dinners when I’m feeling too lazy or tired to cook anything elaborate, and also easily deployed as a side dish at fancier meals.

Hubby (aka, Tasty Boy, since he samples everything coming out of our kitchen before it reaches the dining table!) and I had the veggies and potatoes for supper with crusty bread and an Italian Vino Verde from Piedmont.

*Paanch Phoron
is a five-spice blend used extensively in Eastern India, especially in the cuisines of Bengal, Orissa and Assam. The five whole spices are blended in equal parts— Fenugreek seeds (methi), Nigella seeds (kalonji, or kaalo jirey), Fennel seeds (mouri), Carom (radhuni), Mustard seed (shorshey). In my family, the fifth spice, mustard, is not used, but the blend is still referred to as “five spice.” I always get Mama to mix a batch for me every time I’m in Cal, and store it in an airtight container on my spice rack.


  1. Superb blog. The blow by blow detail gives me a nice appetite

  2. Pete, you're a lucky man to taste her blog entries. How were the veggies? You need to reply with your tasty findings from the other end of the spoon!

  3. Tastey Boy sez: veggies and potatoes are fantastic! Had them with a nice white wine. Yum Yum I say.

  4. I can already tell that this blog is going to dangerous to read while hungry! Looks delicious.



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