Nelson chef offers tips for roasting vegetables
So Easter has come and gone and it’s one of my favourite times of year. The trees start budding and everyone starts to think about getting their gardens ready for planting their vegetables. We start to see the light with the warm weather ahead and it brings everyone’s spirits up. One of the reasons I like Easter so much is it is the last family holiday until the fall. I mean there are others in between but Easter has a special quality to it. It is the last time we eat Ham or Turkey until Thanksgiving and the last meal that has some heartiness to it.
My family is back in Ontario so getting back to see them is difficult, but Nelson is home to my second family and very dear friends so I spent my time with them. We do a potluck to spread out the work load and I have to say I love this style. You get to see a different twist on dishes and see how creative some can get. I have to say I am very lucky to have friends that have great taste in food so there are very few times where there is a disappointing dish.
I was on vegetable duty which can be very boring but a great challenge. I wanted to stay away from the mashed squash or heavy dishes that stick to your ribs and go for something with beautiful earth tones in flavour. I chose to do a variety of roasted vegetables and have each element bring something to the table. I used leeks, radishes, purple top turnips, cauliflower, and broccoli rab. Yes I said cooked radishes and I am amazed how many people have never had a cooked radish. Try it and I am certain you will be pleasantly surprised. You have to be careful when you are using many different kinds of vegetables because they have different cooking times and each must reach the point of perfection otherwise you will spoil the other flavors.
When you roast something like vegetables, they eventually turn golden brown. This is the sugars inside that begin to caramelize and accentuate the flavours of whatever it is you are using. I first clean and wash all of my produce before cooking them. I like to give them a quick blanch before roasting them but you must use caution when doing this. If you over cook them slightly and then roast them, then you will be left with mush. Mush is bad!! In the culinary world we cook things al dente meaning to the tooth. It has some bite or crunch to it.
You should set up your blanching water with some flavour and I think this is often over looked. You should be trying to maximize your flavour potential when cooking and starting with the blanching water should be done. Add a little acid like lemon or lime to it or even some white wine. It is amazing how much flavor is absorbed into your little vegetables.
Once you blanch your vegetables you should immediately dump them into an ice bath to stop the carry over cooking and keep their bright colours.
Now the roasting bit can be done all together as the blanching should have leveled out the cooking times. Simply toss them with nice oil, salt pepper and roast until beautiful golden brown. You can try tossing some nice hard herbs like thyme or rosemary and don’t forget to finish with a little squeeze of lemon once they are out and resting.