Root vegetables are trending in the culinary world. With balsamic glazes, oven-roasted chars or grill-marked skins they are on the covers of popular cooking magazines. Rutabaga, celeriac (celery root), rainbow carrots, pink ginger, and radishes are just a few of the members of the root family. They are identified as bulbous, tuberous and tap by their underground growing systems. At harvest, farmers hunch over broken earth to uproot these often colorful, yet dirt-clod produce. And as farm-to-table recipes are on the rise, there has been a 40% increase in their consumption over the past 4 years.
Yet, these crunchy veggies are not the traditional sideshow stoppers of the Thanksgiving meal. That is partly due to their Mohawk plumes, bitter overtones and fibrous skins. Most guests are not running to mounded tables for mashed rutabagas, pickled pink ginger or parsnip stuffing. At least I don’t think so….
But, the addition of new vegetables can bring interest to the food experience and enhance the nutritional value. If paired well, these nutrient-rich sides can broaden the tastebuds and draw visual appeal. They add something to the meal, even as “hidden” foods of the earth.
The non-traditional flavors of Thanksgiving got me thinking about the personalities I imagined seated around the table. They are as varied as the foods themselves. Some more colorful than others. A few tracking in dirt from recently being uprooted. Most in need of delicate handling to bring out the flavorful traits from within. Family is family. We don’t often have the liberty of choosing our family. And holidays always seem to bring the best and worst out in people. But at the end of the day, some of those characteristics when sprinkled with a dash of grace might end up a surprising welcome to the meal. My stubbornness, the kid’s impulsivity, Aunt Jenny’s cackling, and of course, Uncle Chip’s annoying teasing are less than agreeable on their own. But when saddled next to kindness, honesty, generosity, or laughter these traits round out discussions. They may even introduce novella-like stories for the rooted gatherings of tomorrow.
This Thanksgiving season may we find it satisfying to show some benevolence to the familial invités of our own homes. November is identified as a harvest month, and with it arrives the opportunity to gather together and be grateful. Gratitude, much like the bounty atop the Augusta River Region tables throughout the holidays, is a cultivated gift. However, unlike the consumed items of those special times, gratitude grows exponentially when shared.
Roasted Root Vegetables
1 lb parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 lb medium tri-color carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lb butternut squash, peeled
1 lb turnips, peeled and chopped
1 lb beets or rutabagas, peeled and chopped
3-5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Balsamic glaze (you can use flavored glazes like orange or pomegranate)
Preheat oven to 425°.
Toss together the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Add olive oil and toss until well-coated. Add thyme, rosemary, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste; toss.
Arrange vegetable mixture in a single layer on 2 lightly greased (with cooking spray) jelly-roll pans.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender and browned, stirring every 10-15 minutes.
Transfer vegetables to a large platter and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Squeeze balsamic glaze in zig-zags over the arranged veggies, and serve.
Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplashed.com
Aimee Serafin, editor of the Augusta Family Magazine.