Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Back to Our Roots

root vegetablesGotta love New England in January. Snow, drizzle, flurries, a peek of sunshine, a little thaw, some freezing rain. And that was just one afternoon last week.

Perfect weather for some ice cream. The girls and I have been treating ourselves to sundaes, but it's not a long-term strategy. So in between the frozen treats I've been focusing on stews and casseroles and roasts. Root vegetables have starred in several of these meals; not only are they widely available this time of year, but they also hold up well in the long-cooking, kitchen-warming dishes that I reserve for winter.

We found an array of root vegetables and other wintry things (like squash, and, um, gelato!) at the winter farmers' market in Wayland. It's worth a visit if you are in the area, but go early: We apparently missed out on some greenhouse-grown Swiss chard.

Part of the farmers' market haul wound up in this stew:

Vegan (and Fat Free) Winter Vegetable Stew
(adapted from the International Vegetarian Union web site)

Peel and cube:
1 rutabaga
3 turnips
3 to 4 carrots
1 sweet potato
2 to 3 white potatoes

1 large onion

Rinse well:
1/2 cup barley

Put everything into a large stew pot (mine holds 8 quarts), and add water to cover (about 11 cups). Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for about an hour, until all is nearly tender.

1/3 cup red lentils
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried tarragon
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Simmer until the lentils have cooked, fallen apart and thickened the stew, about 20 minutes. Add more water if necessary.

Notes: The recipe yields a ton (about 16 cups), so keep that in mind if you have a vegetable-averse household. Like most stews, this one tastes even better the second day. Leftovers will continue to thicken because of the barley.

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