I’ve been obsessing over carrots again. Part of my day was consumed in combing through the indexes of cookbooks for carrot recipes. Many of them looked enticing: herbed carrot soup, carrot cake, curried carrot pie with coconut crust. I read through the lists of ingredients and tried to picture the taste and texture of that particular meal. There are so many choices that it was difficult to make a decision, and I went from hungry to very hungry. In the end, I went with a mix of roasted winter vegetables with a ginger soy sauce kick.
I don’t really understand what it is about carrots that attracts me so much. Maybe I’m lacking in the vitamins present in orange vegetables, and my body is trying to let me know with carrot cravings.
Maybe I have carrots on my mind because there was a three-pound bag of them in my refrigerator, just waiting to be eaten. Maybe my love for carrots is just coming to the surface.
I love the soft sweetness that rises in a baked carrot. It’s not the same sweetness that comes with sugar in frosting or cake, but a subtle sweetness. It mixes well with the sweet potatoes, shallots and squash included in this batch of roasted vegetables.
The first root vegetables I ever grew were turnips. I planted the seeds, watched them grow lobed green leaves, and harvested them. Most of them were covered in ugly burls and tracks of worms that had eaten their way through them. I don’t have a clue how they tasted.
Carrots are different. Planted in loose soil, they grow fat and happy. There’s something immensely satisfying about pulling them from the ground, and seeing how much carrot was hidden beneath the surface. Although the carrots I cooked today are straight from the grocery store, I think that the experience of growing them still infects my imagination. Every time I cook with carrots, I like to picture them growing quietly, with only sprouting green leaves as a signal that anything is happening.
February is the time of year when these thoughts become insidiously pervasive. I’m not planning on a garden this summer, but I am tired of winter. Looking out the window at the piles of snow makes me long for spring days, and the seed catalogs that have been coming in the mail intensify that feeling. Some days, I find myself looking at the pages of vegetables, reading descriptions of flavor and yield. I pick out things I’d like to try eating: purple carrots and orange tomatoes, tiny flat peppers and skinny white eggplant.
These thoughts don’t mix well with winter vegetables. Still, I find the variety of oranges in sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and carrots to be cheerful and comforting. The flavor of the soy sauce and ginger coats the vegetables, but I can still taste them.
Roasted Winter Vegetables
3 large carrots, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed (raw)
4 scallions, sliced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic (optional)
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon sesame oil
soy sauce, to preference
fresh black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Clean and chop the vegetables. With carrots, I typically scrub them down rather than peeling them.
A lot of the nutrients are in that skin. All the vegetables should be roughly the same size. For carrots, this means about a thumb-width. My aim is to make them roughly the size of a large bite, although larger vegetables can be done as well. The difference is in cook-time: larger vegetables mean a longer wait until they are done.
Mix them in a bowl with the minced ginger, garlic, olive oil and sesame oil until the oils are evenly distributed over the vegetables. For a finer mince, fresh ginger is best, as it slices more easily.
Line a deep baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the vegetables out over it in a single layer.
Sprinkle with soy sauce. If you prefer a smaller amount to limit your salt intake, I suggest adding a tablespoon of soy sauce when mixing the vegetables in the bowl. I myself like a stronger soy sauce flavor, so I liberally sprinkle it over the vegetables.
Add a dusting of cracked black pepper to your preference. The best way to do this is with a pepper grinder so you get the freshest flavor.
Pop in the oven for 35 minutes, stirring twice. Vegetables are done when a fork slides easily through them, and they carry a golden-brown cast.
I may be longing for spring growth, but this dish is satisfying to both my taste buds and m
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