The topic came up during a recent outdoor dinner, on a near fall-like evening, while looking at the crunch root vegetables that had been turned into something between a puree and a mush on our plates.
We wondered why.
Why serve soft and warm – especially in this Southern clime where it’s still warm in the evenings well into an October fall? While the food was good, the presentation felt like a missed opportunity to present a crisper, brighter version of the vegetables on the plate.
In other words, showcasing the crunch of the season.
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Roasted vegetables are a great thing – the process is easy and roasting intensifies the flavor of vegetables. But roasted vegetables do not have to be served warm from the oven. Why not instead chill in the fridge a mix of roasted vegetables – think carrots, onion and potato (sweet or not), maybe parsnips or beets, Brussels sprouts or turnips – then toss with a light vinaigrette and sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs for a side or salad. It’s a perfect take-along for tailgating or a fall picnic. Add toasted or roasted pecans or walnuts for extra crunch and fresh goat cheese for tangyness.
If you must puree, why not have some fun with it? Try chilling pureed vegetables and serving small scoops on the plate cool or at room temperature — or separately in a small glass like a sorbet. Chopped roasted nuts, fresh herbs can be added for brightness of flavor and honey or balsamic syrup drizzled on top for a hint of added sweetness.
Few things offer the crunch of the season like apples which, along with muscadine grapes, also are in season. Both roast easily, can be enhanced with the addition of herbs (thyme or rosemary) and pair well with pork (chops, filet and sausage), chicken or lamb. Apples can be used raw, diced and tossed in a leafy greens or cabbage salad. End with an apple cider sorbet. Even roasted grapes – when not paired with sausages (yum!) – can be served by themselves, as part of a cheese or charcuterie plate or dessert.
Roasted Vegetable Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
for the vinaigrette (makes 1 1/4 cups)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover with lid and shake well. Set aside.
for the salad
1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut lengthwise
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise
1 pound small golden beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
10-12 garlic cloves
1 cup sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs
3 small bay leaves
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 head radicchio, separated into leaves
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking pans with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, toss together parsnips, carrots, beets, garlic onion, Brussels sprouts, herbs, bay leaves, butter and oil.
Divide vegetable mix between baking pans, spread to a single layer and season with salt and pepper. Bake both pans at 425 for 20 minutes, one pan in middle rack, one pan in lower rack of oven. Rotate pans and bake for additional 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Remove pans from oven and cool completely. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaves. Roasted vegetables can be kept in zip-top freezer bags up to 2 days.
To serve, bring vegetables to room temperature. Add 1/4 cup apple cider vinaigrette, toss to coat. On a serving platter, arrange radicchio leaves and top with roasted vegetables. Drizzle 1/4 cup apple cider vinaigrette over salad. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with remaining vinaigrette on the side.
Yields 2-3 cups
1 pound (about 4 cups) muscadine grapes, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 (3-4”) sprigs fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking dish or cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Place de-seeded grapes on parchment-lined pan in a single layer.
Drizzle grapes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Add rosemary. Roast in oven for 30 minutes or until grapes have begun to shrivel and give off some liquid. Remove from oven, discard rosemary and serve grapes, including pan juices.
Green Apple and Sparkling Cider Sorbet
About 3 cups
4 Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds)
2 cups sparkling apple cider
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon)
Core and quarter, but do not peel, apples. Cut quarters into 1-inch pieces.
In a medium saucepan, combine sparkling cider, sugar, water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add apple chunks and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let apples steep covered until mixture reaches room temperature.
Place in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain mixture to remove any remaining solids and transfer to small container and place in freezer. When green apple sorbet is completely frozen, remove from freezer and place in food processor or blender and puree again. Return to freezer until ready to use.
Adapted from A Perfect Scoop
Get your S.C. apples
Put an apple-picking trip on your fall bucket list. Here are some places to consider.
Blackwell Farms, 1511 Holly Springs Rd., Inman; (864) 472-5979, www.facebook.com/Blackwell-Farms-216085098731618
Blue Haven Orchards, 12500 Long Creek Highway, Long Creek; (864) 647-2855, www.facebook.com/BlueHavenOrchards
Bryson’s Apple Orchard, 1011 Chattooga Ridge Road, Mountain Rest; (864) 647-9427, www.brysonsappleorchard.com
Carolina Farmers/Perdeaux Fruit Farm, 2400 S.C. 11, Travelers Rest; (864) 895-0303, carolinafarmers.com
Chattooga Belle Farm, 454 Damascus Church Road, Long Creek; (864) 647-9768, www.chattoogabellefarm.com
Hollifield’s Orchard, Hwy. 76, Long Creek; (864) 710-5105, www.facebook.com/hollifieldsorchard
Johnson Farms, 6510 New Cut Rd., Inman; (864) 401-3280, www.johnsonfarmsinman.com
Windy Hill Orchard, 1860 Black Highway, York; (803) 684-0690, windyhillorchard.com
Others in season now in South Carolina
A sampling of other fruits and vegetables in season this fall, from the S.C. Department of Agriculture’s web site.
Beans (snap, pole, variety)
Mixed leafy greens (collard, kale, mustard greens)