Wonderful Winter Veggies

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I spent a large part of my life loathing many of the winter vegetables.  The heavy smell of winter squash or sweet potatoes was enough to make me wrinkle my nose and hold my breath. Only after being caught in several situations where I was forced to eat different varieties of winter squash and sweet potatoes did I discover that if cooked properly they could be a savory side dish or a satisfying main entrée.  You notice I specified “savory dish” not a “sweet dish.”   Brown sugar and marshmallows do nothing to enhance the flavor of winter vegetables.    Keeping your cooking methods simple and not covering-up the natural flavors of the vegetables make them more palatable and practical to cook more often.

Roasting

Any of the winter vegetables can be cubed in 1 ½ inch pieces or cut in small portions, tossed lightly in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and roasted in a 425 degree oven.  Bake until tender and slightly browned, about 20 minutes.  Broccoli and cauliflower have a mild flavorful taste when roasted.  Winter squash may be eaten as is or used on salads or in a hearty winter soup. Roasting  a mixture of root vegetables and onions, serving with a fresh salad of greens, vegetables, cheese, and nuts provides a complete meal.  Adding a sprinkle of minced garlic, Cajun spices, or nutmeg can further enhance the flavor in any of the above winter vegetables.

Baking

Winter squash and sweet potatoes baked and served with salt, pepper, and butter is effortless and a tasty comfort food.

Steaming winter vegetables allows you to serve them with just a simple sprinkling of salt and peppers or use as a base for soups, pancakes, waffles, breads, or desserts.  My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is to steam until tender, whip until smooth, add sour cream, and a small can of chopped green chili peppers.

The following recipe is a great winter dish found on epicurious.com.  It complements a variety of meats, guests love it, and the leftovers make a great soup when pureed with cream and broth.

Parmesan-Roasted Butternut Squash

2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 sage leaves
2/3 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano 

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Toss squash with cream, sage, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Bake, covered, 30 minutes.

Stir in half of cheese and sprinkle remainder on top. Roast, uncovered, until squash is tender and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving (cream will thicken)

As the days get colder these hearty winter veggies will satisfy all those hunger pangs while providing a variety of nutrients and fiber.

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