Sunday, January 20, 2008

Root Vegetable Stew

Winter means warming stews, and in our house that's a succession of root vegetables in all of their winter glory. If you haven't rediscovered your 'roots' it's time. There are so many lovely options at the market, both here in Israel and in the US. From parsnips and carrots, to assorted winter squashes (think beyond butternut) to turnips, rutabagas and my current favorite, Jerusalem artichokes.

I went looking for new inspiration and found it in a recent article in Ha'aretz's magazine section. It was a recipe for root vegetables roasted with chestnuts. I fiddled a bit here and there, as I am always a fiddler and as I wanted to focus on certain flavors - bringing out the sharper and more strongly flavored roots. As for chestnuts, you can purchase them fresh in the market, score them and roast them in the oven and peel and use them or you can take the easy way out and buy them vacuum packed in the grocery store. They won't have the same texture and deep flavor though, but they will give good flavor even from the package.

Roasted Vegetable Stew:
J'lem Artichokes - I used about 2 pounds. Peeled and chopped into large 2-3" chunks. I rolled them as I chopped, so they had a nice edge and shape to them.
Sweet Potatoes - 2 pounds. Small ones are lovely here and you can either slice them from top to bottom and then in 1/2 or in chunks according to size.
4-6 small Carrots (or chunked as desired)
3 Turnips - peeled, halved and sliced.
6-8 cloves of Garlic, peeled.
6-8 small onions (you could use shallots, pearl onions or just chunk bigger onions), peeled.
Chestnuts - 2 dozen (or less according to taste)
Butter/olive oil for satueeing.
Mangold/Swiss chard - 1-2 bunches, chopped.
Salt and Pepper

Possible add ins - rutabaga, parsley roots, celeriac, parsnips, winter squashes.
Other additions that could be nice: slices of cabbage and fennel - (meaning 1/4'd pieces of the vegetables).

Saute at a high heat, in a heavy, deep bottomed pot or pan, the chunked vegetables in a few tbsp's of butter and/or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and herbs (fresh or dried) - sage, thyme, rosemary and hot pepper flakes (or toss in a dried, hot pepper). Let the vegetables brown - stirring frequently. If things stick too much, add some white wine or a bit of water with a dab of apple juice and a squeeze of lemon.

Once everything is nicely browned, add water to the top of the vegetables and bring the pot to a boil, add a few bay leaves, then transfer to the oven and roast until tender and beautiful, about 30 minutes.

While it's baking, saute 2 bunches of chopped mangold in a bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the mangold into the finished casserole along with some freshly, chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Serve with quinoa pilaf (I'll tell you how to do that another day) or a cooked grain of your choice.
By the way, this went beautifully with a rich, red cabernet sauvignon that we had been saving. The stew warmed our bellies and the wine went to our knees. A perfect winter combination. Enjoy.

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