Roasting is probably my favorite way to prepare vegetables. There is something quite magical that happens when you combine a little olive oil, fresh vegetables and quite a bit of heat. The tender texture, that bit of tasty char on the outside and the warmth and comfort of such meals make them a staple in my kitchen and I prepare them at least weekly.
On Friday, I spent the morning exploring the two markets in Bra to find root vegetables for the Market to Table recipe today. I had a plan in my head, which I had to veer from as some of the vegetables I was looking for – such as beets – were not available. Others, like shallots, were from France, which is nearby, but it felt disingenuous using a French vegetable for an Italian Market to Table recipe, so I passed on them.
Also, I was originally only planning on doing one preparation. I really wanted to make a sage oil for the vegetables as it’s getting colder and sage makes me feel quite cozy. Plus, my landlord gave me some lovely olive oil from their grove in nearby Alba that I really wanted to use. However, I couldn’t find any sage, much to my surprise, so I changed my course and went with a hazelnut gremolata, which is a Milanese combination of parsley, lemon zest and garlic, with the addition of hazelnuts as a variant. However, later at the upper market I found my sage, so two preparations it is.
These take a bit of prep, but they can last you the entire week. The recipe can easily be multiplied with more veggies and sheet pans. For lunch, I ate them as part of a salad with green leaf lettuce, a bit of the gremolata, some of the toasted hazelnuts, salty ricotta salata, lemon juice (from the zested lemon – no food waste) and some olive oil on top. Tonight, I’ll prepare a bit of sage butter and toss the vegetables with some of that, a little of the sage oil and egg pasta. Tomorrow, I’ll put them over quinoa with a tahini sauce that I’ll mix with the sage oil. I also plan on making a frittata later in the week. These would be excellent baked into a gratin with a besciamella sauce and breadcrumbs (and cheese, obviously). Any leftovers will be blended with broth into a smooth soup later in the week. You could also just eat them as a side dish, with either the gremolata or the sage oil as a condiment. Honestly, this has left me with a whole week of meals on the cheap and each meal is very different than the last. See why I love roasting?
Roasted Root Vegetables Two Ways
- You can use any roots you like here, just make sure to clean and peel them and cut them into pieces that are about the same size. This dish is prettiest if you find roots in various colors. If you use red beets, you may want to cook them on a separate sheet as they will bleed into the other vegetables.
- Toasted hazelnuts are divine. Make extra if you want a good snack.
- Use a good quality oil for the sage oil.
- If you can’t find peeled hazelnuts, you can toast them in the oven for about ten minutes (the skin is bitter and doesn’t taste good). Let them cool and then rub them in between a kitchen towel to remove the skins. This is messy, but it works. You can usually forgo the toasting then as the oven will have done that.
- Keep everything, including the hazelnuts, in the fridge between meals.
Roasted Root Vegetables & Toasted Hazelnuts:
4-5 lbs (2-2.5 kilos) of assorted root vegetables (I used white sweet potatoes, turnips, celery root, daikon radish, carrots, garlic and red onions), washed, peeled and cut into approximately 3/4 inch (2 cm) pieces
Extra virgin olive oil, for roasting
Salt & Pepper, for roasting
1 c. hazelnuts, peeled
1 small bunch fresh parsley, leaves and thin stems only
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 unwaxed lemon, zested (preferably organic)
1 small bunch fresh sage, leaves only
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/3 cup (100 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) with a rack in the center. Place prepared vegetables on a sheet pan in an even layer. Drizzle well with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Mix to ensure everything is well coated. Roast for 30-40 minutes until tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, toast hazelnuts. Place the hazelnuts on the stove in a skillet on medium heat. Toast gently, shaking the pan occasionally, until the nuts smell toasty and have darkened slightly. Do not burn. This should take 5-8 minutes. Let cool and then chop coarsely. Some of these will go into the gremolata and the others can be used in conjunction with the sage oil.
- Make gremolata. Chop parsley finely. Add garlic, lemon zest and 1/4 cup cooled toasted hazelnuts and chop again to incorporate everything. Transfer to a bowl or jar. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Make sage oil. Using a medium sized mortar and pestle, grind sage leaves and salt to a paste. Gradually add oil in three stages, blending thoroughly at each stage, until you have a smooth dark green oil. Transfer to a small jar and top with additional oil. This can also be done in a food processor, by processing sage and salt until finely chopped and then adding oil while the machine is on to create an emulsification.
- Transfer vegetables to a platter and serve with gremolata, sage oil and chopped hazelnuts, or in whatever preparation you wish. Buon appetito!
Serves 8-10 as a side, 4-6 as a main with an additional component, such as pasta or polenta.