Apparently, roasting vegetables is a relatively new trend. A recent article traced the history of vegetable preparation, finding that home cooks of decades past often preferred steaming, sauteing, and even boiling when it came to cooking vegetables of any variety. Roasted vegetables were rarely found outside the restaurant kitchen, and it was only in the 90’s and early 2000’s that the cooking method assumed popularity.
As someone with only a few year’s experience in the kitchen, this came as a huge shock to me. How could decades of eaters missed out on the sweet, caramelized flavor of roasted Brussels sprouts, or the crispy, tender texture of roasted squash? How could cooks have ignored the simplicity of tossing vegetables in oil, turning on the oven, and waiting for the vegetables to come out perfectly done?
To show the full potential of the roasted vegetable, I’ve chosen this soup recipe. Butternut squash soup is typically made over the stove top, where the squash becomes tender by simmering in stock. This recipe veers from the traditional, roasting the squash instead. This cuts down the time spent over the soup pot by 75%. The entire soup comes together during the last five minutes, when the vegetables and warmed stock are added to a blender to combine.
The result? a soup that captures the unique, deep flavor of roasted vegetables. It’s perfect for a cold, January night, and begs for a slice of crusty, toasted bread.
Curried Butternut Squash Soup Recipe (adapted from Ina Garten’s Back to Basics Cookbook)
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 1 large apple, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 cups chicken stock
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon curry powder (depending on taste)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- chopped scallions, green parts only (for garnish)
- toasted coconut (for garnish)
- Roast vegetables at 425 for 30-40 minutes, until tender.
- Heat stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add roasted vegetables and 1/2 cup of chicken stock to a blender or food processor. Pulse until the mixture is pureed and has a smooth texture.
- Transfer the mixture to a large soup pot and add chicken stock until the soup reaches your desired consistency. Add curry powder, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Serve, topped with scallions and toasted coconut.
While this dish might be rather dull in color, it’s shining with flavor. With a long list of spices (star anise, cinnamon sticks, ginger, turmeric, and paprika), every bite tastes sweet, spicy, and delicious.
The toughest part of this recipe is the preparation. While root vegetables might be plentiful at this time of year, their texture makes them a struggle to peel and chop. Once this step is done, however, the recipe is largely hands off and requires little attention.
If you’re looking for a new way to use up that squash, or want a warm dish to offset the cold of winter, this one won’t let you down.
Winter Couscous Recipe (adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi)
- 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
- 1 medium sized onion, chopped
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 star anise
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- salt to taste
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp chile flakes
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
- 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
- 1 cup couscous
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp butter
- harissa, to serve
- parsley, to serve
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together parsnips, carrots, onions, cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, ginger, turmeric, paprika, chile flakes, olive oil, and 3/4 tsp salt. Place in a large baking dish and roast for 15 minutes.
- Remove the dish from the oven and add butternut squash. Cook for another 35 minutes.
- Boil vegetable stock in a small pot. Once ready, add couscous and remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add in 1 tbsp of butter and fluff with a fork.
- Remove vegetables from the oven and add 1 1/2 cups water and dried apricots. Continue roasting for 10 minutes more.
- Serve vegetables on top of couscous with harissa and parsley on top.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Lately, temperatures in the teens and single digits have encouraged me to spend more time in the kitchen. With plenty of ingredients on hand and time to spare, I’ve had the chance to try a handful of recipes that take longer than I’m usually willing to spend over the stove.
This winter stew is one of my latest creations. It’s a combination of some of my favorite winter vegetables, including kale, squash, root vegetables, and beans. The end result is both colorful and hearty; the perfect thing to eat when the temperature drops below freezing.
The key here is to roast the squash and carrots in the oven before adding them to the stew with the rest of the ingredients. The roasting process allows the vegetables to caramelize while cooking, bringing out their natural sweetness. I also went for a broth that was tomato-based rather than broth-based, making the stew thicker and more flavorful than similar recipes.
Butternut Squash, Kale, and White Bean Stew Recipe
- 1 small butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 3 carrots, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups whole tomatoes, with juice (from a 28 oz. can)
- 1 bunch lacinato kale (about 8 leaves)
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp basil
- salt, to taste
- olive oil
- 32 oz. vegetable broth
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss butternut squash and carrots lightly in olive oil and spread on a sheet pan lined with foil. Roast 25-30 minutes, or until squash is tender when poked with a fork.
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
- Chop whole tomatoes and add them to the saucepan. Add thyme and basil and let simmer.
- after 5-10 minutes, remove half of the tomato liquid. Place it in a blender and puree for 30 seconds.
- Add tomato mixture back to the saucepan. Pour in vegetable broth and bring back to a simmer. Add in kale and cook for 30 minutes at a gentle simmer.
- Add white beans, squash, and carrots. Cook until heated through and serve.
- Makes 6-8 servings.
This recipe is inspired by Picco, a lovely restaurant located in Boston’s South End. While everything on the menu is top notch, my absolute favorite thing to order is the pizza covered in butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and a generous amount of fontina cheese.
For my rendition of this recipe, I decided to skip the red sauce and start with a foundation of white pizza. I didn’t have any brussels sprouts on hand, so I replaced them with a few handfuls of fresh spinach. I also added a few caramelized onions, since I love their sweet and savory flavor (hint: if you’re in a rush, add some balsamic vinegar to the onions near the end of cooking. This creates a similar flavor, but takes about half the time!).
Winter Squash and Spinach Pizza Recipe
- Pizza dough (I suggest this recipe, but you can also buy some at your local grocery store)
- mozzarella cheese, grated
- ricotta cheese
- a few handfuls of spinach
- 1/2 butternut squash, cubed
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 medium onion
- olive oil
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the cubes of butternut squash in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on a prepared baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, testing for doneness with a fork. Don’t overcook, since the butternut squash will roast for 10 minutes more on top of the pizza.
- Cut the onion in half and slice into thin half moons. Heat oil in a small skillet on low and add onions. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until onions are evenly golden brown and caramelized.
- In the meantime, spread cornmeal out onto a large baking pan. Stretch the pizza dough so that it is uniformly thin and fits nicely into the baking pan. Rub stretched dough with a light layer of olive oil.
Assemble the Pizza:
- Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
- Spread mozzarella cheese evenly over the pizza dough. Using a medium sized spoon, scoop ricotta out of the container and drop onto the pizza. Continue this process 10-15 more times, until pizza is evenly covered. Sprinkle spinach over the entire pizza. Use a few handfuls, keeping in mind that the spinach will shrink during cooking.
- Top pizza with minced garlic, caramelized onions, and cooked butternut squash cubes. Place in the hot oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until pizza is evenly browned. Remove and let cool before serving.