So, technically, it’s not Monday. I was going to try to sneak this past you and be all “what? you didn’t get this until Tuesday? Stupid WordPress…” but I can’t lie to you like that. I had this post written a week ago, but things got in the way of me finishing up with the recipe bit yesterday. Who wants a blog post without an actual recipe somewhere? Not you. Please consider this my Farmers’ Market Monday post, even though it’s a day late.
I know I’m like a broken record here with the squash and the apple cider, and we’re only a few days into October. I’m not apologizing; as far as I’m concerned, it’s important, basically your ethical duty, to enjoy as many root vegetables and fall fruits as you possibly can right now. You’ll thank me when it’s mid-January and many of us will be staring open-mouthed at our pantries wondering where it all went. Can you still get apples and some root veggies mid-winter? Sure you can. but this is autumn, people; get with the program. Everyone knows things are tastier now while you’re in the throes of pre-holiday excitement.
I’m instantly in love with this particular offering, by the way. I’ve been eating very little meat recently (I like to call myself an almost-vegetarian); big plates of roast broccoli and cauliflower, veggie burgers, and the last of my tomatoes. Although I have nothing against meat (and think everyone can make their own decisions regarding that) and eat it on occasion, more often than not, I gravitate towards vegetables. I crave them. Fall produce makes it so easy, because it’s so hearty and satisfying as a meal you don’t even miss having a meat option. Such is the case with this recipe: you can stuff your face with it and feel good about it. Because it’s just whatever favorite root veggies you have, a few apples, and a smattering of dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and celery leaves, lightly blanketed in an apple cider and maple reduction.
To make this a little more special than it already is, add some cute serving gourds to the mix. I like to use acorn squash because of its delicate, slightly sweet flavor; you have to do nothing to an acorn squash but lop off the top (be nice about it), rub some olive oil all around the insides of top and bottom, and place insides-down on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes. What you get is what you see below: nice roasted edges and an additional veggie to add to the mix. I love to use these for fall soups, also; It’s like a bread bowl, only loads better for you. If you have room in your oven, you can roast these at the same time as your root veggie and apple mix. Feel free to experiment with other types of squash: right now the stores are flooded with different varieties, but make sure you choose one you’re familiar with or ask your produce guy to explain which types may be similar to an acorn. Whatever the kind, look for a bowl-sized, squatty one suitable for housing your finished product.
You feel warmer just looking at that photo, don’t you? I do. I ate this for lunch and dinner for two days, which is how I know it makes four meal-sized servings. I’d serve this with a little Dijon vinaigrette-tosssed greens salad, possibly with some crumbly blue cheese on top. And it’s all so simple to throw together, you’ll have more time to sit by a fire, hopefully outside in the chilly fall air. In your favorite sweater. And a scarf. That’s exactly what I’ll be doing.
Adapted from American Flavor by Andrew Carmellini. Love this cookbook, people. Get it; there’s a reason it was on everyone’s “Best of” lists for 2011, and I have had the best time cooking from it.
Root Vegetable + Apple Roast with Cider Glaze
for the cider glaze:
- 2 1/2 cups apple cider
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- pinch kosher salt, to taste
for the vegetables*:
- 4 squatty, bowl-sized acorn squash, “lids” cut off and seeds scooped out of the bottom half (remember to keep it looking pretty; these are your serving dishes)
- 1 butternut squash, skinny top half only, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2-3 small white turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 small rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4-6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
for the roasted pumpkin seeds**:
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 2/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- pinch kosher salt
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- handful of fresh celery leaves, rough chopped (optional)
* I consider this to be a very free-form dish, capable of virtually any sort of root veggie customization. If you aren’t fond of rutabagas, substitute in something else. Get enough to loosely fill a sheet pan and you should be good. My only suggestion: don’t use red beets unless you super want a pink-tinted dinner, because they’ll dye everything they are mixed with. If you must use beets, stick to goldens. I can’t say it enough, but do try to stick with organics here: I’ve noticed, obvious health benefits aside, that they are far superior in flavor and color to their non-organic counterparts.
** If you can only find already roasted and salted pumpkin seeds (as was my dilemma), that’s okay. I’ve included modifications below.
Make your glaze:
Preheat your oven to 450˚F. If you’re doing the squash bowls, you will need 2 half sheet pans and quite possibly a quarter sheet for overflow (like the squash lids).
Add your apple cider and brown sugar to a small saucepan over medium high heat and cook the mixture until it reduces down to about 1/2 cup and has thickened to where it thinly coats the back of a spoon, 15-20 minutes. Watch it closely as it gets near the goal, because it will reduce quickly at the end and you don’t want to overdo it. Remove from heat, add the maple syrup and season with salt. Set aside.
Roast your veggies and fruit:
Place your choice of root vegetables (and the apples) into a large bowl and add 2-3 tablespoons of your olive oil. Toss until everything is coated, which will take a few minutes. Make sure you work from the bottom up so none of your cubes are missing their coating.
Turn your mixture out onto a lipped half sheet pan, spreading them out as much as you can and making sure they are in a single layer. season with a little salt and pepper.
When you’re finished with that, take your remaining olive oil and rub it in and around the inside/flesh part of the acorn squash bowls, making sure to get the top edges. Season with a little salt and pepper, and place the bowls and their lids flesh sides down on another sheet pan (or two). Now read my note.
A Note about the Roasting: This should all fit on an oven with two racks: arrange the racks so that one is directly under the other, in the middle portion of your oven. If you’re sketchy about doing this all at once, roast your bowls ahead of time using the directions above, then set aside and zap them in the microwave for a few minutes before serving.
So now that you’ve strategized how best to cook these (all together or in shifts), place what you’re working with in your oven, middle racks. You will be roasting everything for a total of 20-25 minutes; you won’t need to do anything with the bowls – just let them bake – but turn your cubed veg and fruit so they cook evenly at the halfway (10-minute) point. When finished, your cubed produce will be fork-tender and a little browned, and your squash bowls will be roasty-looking on the top edges and tender throughout.
Meanwhile, roast your pumpkin seeds:
Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. For unroasted/unsalted seeds, add your seeds to the pan and shake them around in the butter, letting them toast for a few minutes until they start to crackle and snap. Tend to your pan, shaking it around while they toast so nothing burns.
Add the salt and cayenne, and toss to coat (use a spatula if the idea of tossing around hot butter and cayenne doesn’t float your boat), making sure spice is evenly distributed. Remove from the heat and let the seeds cool down a little in the pan while everything else gets finished.
Pssst: use the remaining time you have while your vegetable party is finishing up in the oven to ready your dried cranberries and celery leaves.
So, couldn’t find unroasted/unsalted seeds? Work around this by omitting the pinch of salt and one of the teaspoons of butter, melting the butter as the recipe says, but only heating the seeds for a minute or so. Toss in your cayenne and toss them a bit more, but since they’re already roasted, you’re doing this until everything looks nice and evenly coated.
Put this all together:
This should be easy: you’ve got your warmed pumpkin seeds, your roasted stuff, your fun bowls…you’re done! Once your vegetable mix is out of the oven (and you’ve zapped your squash bowls – if you need to – in the microwave), divide your chopped stuff equally into four squash bowls. spoon the cider glaze over your bowls, making sure to hit a little of the sides as well. Top with pumpkin seeds, celery leaves, and cranberries, and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately. You are a total dinner hit right now.
Bonus points for noticing there are no celery leaves in my photo. Truth: it’s because I got way excited about eating this, so I snapped photos and ate. I only made one acorn bowl, and it was gone before I realized my error. The celery leaves were eaten with the remaining 3 servings, and they added a really nice bitter flavor to the dish.
Serves, quite obviously, 4 as a meal, but as a side (sans acorn bowls) it could serve up to 6.