Let’s get back to our roots

These days, shopping for produce is an international experience. You can have anything you want from practically any country. Sadly, there is only a limited selection of produce from Canada. However, if you buy at an independent store, you have many more Canadian choices when it comes to fruits and vegetables because the big supermarket chains import most of our produce.

We need to support our Canadian farmers. We need to know the quality of food that we are eating. Remember that if we support Canadian farmers we ensure that they have a market. During the last grocery shopping visit at a chain store, these were the fruits and vegetables available from Canada: honey crisp apples, carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes, red onions, cooking onions, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, celery root, red and green cabbage, greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. It reminded me of grocery shopping years ago. A light went on. If you use recipes from times past or recipes from countries whose climate is similar to ours, then you will find recipes which take us back to our roots.

Vegetable Borscht
This colourful borscht has Eastern European origins and was designed as a hearty soup or stew, either vegetarian or with meat, to make the most of the root vegetables available during the winter months. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and fresh rye bread for an authentic experience.
1 tbsp (15mL) each, butter and vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 celery root, peeled, sliced and chopped; substitute 2 celery stalks, sliced
1 bay leaf
4 beets, scrubbed and coarsely shredded
2 cups (500 mL) shredded cabbage
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups (1 L) stock, chicken, beef or vegetable
2 cups (500 mL) diced tomatoes
2tbsp (25 mL) chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp (15 mL)    cider vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 ml) fresh black pepper
Garnish: sour cream or yogurt
In large stainless steel saucepan or Dutch oven heat oil and butter over medium high heat. Cook onion, carrot and celery root until vegetables are softened, about five minutes. Stir in bay leaf, beets, cabbage, potatoes and stock. Cook until vegetables are tender, 10 to15 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, dill, vinegar, salt and black pepper. Heat gently. Discard bay leaf. Spoon soup into soup bowls; serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream. Serves six to eight.

Roasted Salad
Roasting vegetables intensifies and sweetens their flavours. Of course, you can vary the ‘salad’ with your favourite vegetables and those you have on hand. In that case, it could be called ‘refrigerator salad’. Prepare lots of vegetables because these roasted roots are yummy as a vegetable course, and they can also be used tossed with cooked pasta or rice. Any leftovers carry well for the bagged lunch the next day.
2 each, carrots and parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 onions, cooking or red, peeled and sliced
2 leeks, carefully washed and sliced
2 potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 8 wedges
2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 8 wedges
1/2 lb (250 g) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4-8  cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup (125 mL) olive oil
1/4 cup (50 mL) water
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tsp (5 mL) rosemary
1/2 tsp (2 mL) sea salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
1/4 cup (50 mL) balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Line large baking sheet or two smaller ones with parchment paper, set aside. In large mixing bowl mix together carrots, parsnips, leeks, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and garlic. In separate container whisk together olive oil, water, lemon juice, rosemary, salt and black pepper. Pour this mixture over vegetables and toss to coat well. Arrange on prepared baking sheet. Bake about 35 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. Spoon vegetables into serving platter or bowl and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves four to six.
Cooking tip: when roasting these vegetables in the oven, it is best to roast a single sheet at a time for even cooking, unless you have a convection oven. However, if your oven is small and you need to use two baking sheets in the oven at once, make sure you switch them every half-hour.

Roasted Onion Marmalade
Who would think that the humble onion could taste so delicious! Once roasted and tossed with a little wine vinegar, this ‘marmalade’ can be used as a vegetable, or as a condiment with meat or a topping for bread or pasta.
6 red onions or white cooking onions, peeled
1/3 cup (75 mL) olive oil
1/4 cup (50 mL) red wine vinegar
1 tbsp (15 mL) thyme
2 tsp (10 mL) sea salt
Preheat oven to 375˚F (190˚C). Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice onions in half from the tip to the root end; cut in half again; cut in half again then half again. Onion has been cut into 1/8 slices. Arrange the onion slices in neat, slightly overlapping rows on parchment paper. In mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar and thyme. Drizzle over onions. Sprinkle with salt. Cover with aluminum foil and roast 45 minutes. Uncover and continue to roast 20 minutes. Serve hot as a vegetable or warm as a condiment.

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer.

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