Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Budget-Stretching Roasted Veggies with Crispy Greens

Disclaimer: The following is not really a recipe. It is "throw cooking" at its best: Use what you have on hand with minimal and simple preparation, and cook in a foolproof manner for flavorful results the whole family will love--yes, even the avowed vegetable-hater. As an added plus, this dish uses inexpensive ingredients that are packed with healthy vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other good stuff, and it's low in fat without sacrificing flavor.

Roasting produces deep layers of flavor ranging from rich, mellow earthiness to smooth, almost caramel-like sweetness in even the most ornery, unpopular vegetables including sharp radishes, pungent garlic, and ugly-duckling turnips. You can stretch your budget by buying root vegetables with their green tops intact and using the greens in this recipe. The greens are edible and nutritious, and thoroughly cooking them eliminates any bitterness or bite. Stir-frying until slightly crispy gives them an intriguing texture that contrasts pleasantly with the buttery roasted veggies, and also brings out a subtle sweetness by caramelizing some of the natural sugars in the greens.

If you don't have vegetables with green tops, you can substitute a bunch of chard, kale, collards, spinach, or other fresh dark leafy green. Remember, quantities and types don't matter. Likewise, although I only used salt and pepper, you can certainly add other seasonings such as dried or fresh chopped herbs, a squeeze or two of lemon juice, a few splashes of balsamic vinegar, or even a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce if you prefer spicy foods.

Here's how I made the version shown in the photos:

1 large onion, peeled, quartered and then sliced about 1/4" wide
15 to 20 peeled garlic cloves (or the peeled cloves from 1 head of garlic)
6 small sweet peppers, seeded & sliced into 1/4"wide rings
1 bunch red radishes with greens (save them), trimmed & halved or quartered
2 large carrots, peeled & cut into 1/2" thick rounds
Olive Oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss the vegetables (except the radish greens) with just enough olive oil to coat, then spread in a single layer on a roasting pan or shallow baking dish. Sprinkle to taste with salt & pepper. Place in oven on center rack and roast at 425°F for approx. 45 minutes or until tender and slightly caramelized, stirring once or twice to ensure even roasting.

While the vegetables are roasting, thoroughly wash the radish greens to remove all dirt and grit. Discard any wilted or yellow leaves and the tough stem ends (you can keep the thinner, more tender stems). Shake off excess water, then use a sharp knife to chop the greens fairly finely. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped greens and cook, stirring from time to time, until the greens become tender and have cooked down. Continue to cook, stirring regularly to stir-fry until the greens begin to crisp up and brown ever so slightly (they should be pretty dry, and you might need to reduce the heat a little to prevent burning). Remove from heat. When the vegetables are roasted, remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add the crispy greens and gently stir together. Taste for balance and season as desired with additional salt & pepper, or with herbs, or some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, or hot sauce, etc. Refrigerate any leftovers and reheat or serve cold (I like to toss the cold leftovers with some balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil and then add to salad greens).

Zestfully yours,

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