- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The beauty of winter vegetables is the ease with which they can become satisfying dishes.

Hardy greens, such as kale, are a great example. Trim out the stems, cut the leaves into ribbons and give them a quick saute in olive oil, crushed garlic and red-pepper flakes for a fantastic 5-minute side.

Potatoes — sweet and otherwise — are another cool-weather vegetable that offers easy prep and plenty of satisfaction. Steam new potatoes, or chunks of russets, then toss with olive oil, diced scallions and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Carrots usually hold their sweetness long into winter. Cut them into thin rounds, then saute briefly in butter or soy margarine and a bit of salt. They are great alone, and even better with a dash of dried dill or a spoonful of apricot jam stirred in.

Baked Spanish onions are another seasonal favorite. Peel off the outer skin and arrange several on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake 1 hour at 300 degrees or until quite soft.

To serve the onions, either drizzle with balsamic vinegar or heap shredded mozzarella on them and broil for 1 minute.

Broccoli florets also are nice this time of year. Saute them briefly in toasted sesame-seed oil and soy sauce, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. For a pungent take, add some crushed garlic cloves to the saute.

Or try roasted red peppers. Cut bell peppers in half and clean out the seeds. Coat each pepper half with olive oil and sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper, then arrange on a baking sheet. Place one artichoke heart in each pepper.

Bake the peppers at 250 degrees for about 1 hour. Remove the peppers from the oven, and place a thick slice of goat cheese in each. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake the peppers another 5 minutes.

In their recent book, “The Way We Cook: Recipes From the New American Kitchen” (Houghton Mifflin), Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven offer an assortment of easy vegetable dishes that pack plenty of flavor with little effort.

Although the book is not vegetarian, those who avoid meat will find plenty of inspiration in these pages. The chapter on side dishes offers everything from corn pudding and scalloped tomatoes to brussels sprouts with honey, mustard and dried cranberries.

The strength of these dishes is their simplicity. The authors’ recipe for roasted winter squash highlights the natural sweetness of this wonderful vegetable, which is intensified by a long stint in the oven.

“Winter squash is so meaty that some nights a plateful of the squash, a big salad and a glass of red wine are a satisfying supper,” the authors write. They simmer the leftovers in stock with an onion and curry powder and puree for a thick soup.

The book’s recipe for cauliflower in milk with rosemary caught my attention immediately. I love cauliflower and will eat it just about any way, but my wife is pickier. The Parmesan cheese, cream and rosemary seemed the perfect cloak.

“Few savory dishes rely on milk,” Miss Julian and Miss Riven write. “We use it here to tone down the somewhat harsh taste of cauliflower.”

For the squash, any combination of winter squashes can be used. Because different squashes cook at different speeds, it is important to watch the dish closely during the last 20 minutes or so of cooking and remove pieces as they finish. The following recipes are from “The Way We Cook”:

Winter squashes roasted in chunks

2 delicata squash, halved, seeded and cut into 3-inch chunks

1 medium buttercup squash, halved, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks

One 8-inch piece of blue hubbard squash, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks

cup water, or more if needed

Olive oil, for sprinkling

1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste

teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place all the squash, cut sides up, on a large rimmed baking sheet. Pour the water into the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the squash with oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 55 minutes or until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. The squash chunks will be ready at different times, so remove the cooked pieces from the oven as they are ready. Transfer the squash to a platter and serve. Makes 8 servings.

Cauliflower in milk with rosemary

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into 4 pieces

cup whole milk

Handful fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons heavy cream

teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste

teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or stockpot over a medium flame. When it is hot, add the butter and shallots and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until shallots are softened.

Add the cauliflower, milk and rosemary. Bring to a boil, reduce flame to medium-low, cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Use a fork to break the cauliflower into small, irregular pieces. Drizzle the cauliflower with the cream, salt and pepper, and cook over a medium flame for 3 minutes or until the cream is hot.

Transfer the cauliflower and sauce to a serving dish, sprinkle with cheese and serve. Makes 4 servings.


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