Roasted Roots

Roasted root vegetables are a healthful and delicious alternative to french fries.  Examples include potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and beets.  Kohlrabi is not technically a root, but is turnip-like and also roasts well.

Roasted roots are great as a snack, or a holiday dish.  Or have a “Dip-a-thon” meal of roasted roots, baked chicken fingers, cucumber slices, and apple wedges, with ketchup, barbecue sauce, low-fat ranch, and honey/nut butter.

My favorite root is probably the sweet potato.   The sweet potato is believed to have originated in Central America, domesticated there over 5000 years ago.  It has since spread, and become a staple food in many parts of the world. 1

In China, Korea and Japan, whole yellow and purple sweet potatoes are baked in a large iron drum, and sold by street venders during the winter. 2

Sweet potatoes contain fiber, vitamin C and B6, potassium, magnesium, and beta carotene (a.k.a. vitamin A).  The oranger the flesh of the sweet potato, the more fat-soluble beta-carotene it contains.  The oil coating the sweet potatoes in this week’s recipe aids in its absorption. 3, 4

Here are some Tips for this week’s recipe – Roasted Root Vegetables:

Not all cooking oils are created equal.  Ideally, a mechanically (expeller or cold pressed) extracted, naturally refined, high-heat oil works best for roasting.  Store it in an airtight, cool, dark place when not in use to protect it from rancidity.

Cutting the roots into thin “shoe strings” reduces cooking time, and yields crisper “fries.”  Cutting them into thicker pieces increases cooking time, and yields softer “fries.”  Cutting all the different roots in a similar shape/size aids in them having similar baking times.

Spreading the roots on the baking sheet in a single layer is important if one wants the “fries” to be crispy; it is the direct contact with the baking sheet that crisps and browns the “fries.”

“Fries” on the outside of the baking sheet tend to brown sooner than inner ones.  When flipping the “fries,” one can exchange the outer and inner “fries,” or pull the outer fries out sooner.

Using only one oven rack prevents the obstruction of a baking sheet from the heating source by another baking sheet.  This reduces baking time, and improves uniform browning.

Parsnips can be quite fibrous – I usually cut across the fibers to create rounds.

I did not include beets, as they dye the other roots purple, which can be off-putting to some children.  If one’s children like beets, one might even let them color the other roots with the beets, before tossing them in the oil and salt.

Dip-a-thon Platter with Roots, Chicken, & Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Baking Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Yield: 2-4 servings

Ingredients:

1 Russet potato
1 Sweet potato
1 Carrot
1 Parsnip
1 Turnip
Oil with high smoke point
Salt
Optional: sauce for dipping, like ketchup, barbecue sauce, balsamic reduction, or low fat ranch.

Equipment:

Peeler
Cutting board
Knife
Bowl
2 Baking sheets

Directions:

1.  Peel and cut roots into uniform “fries” or bite-sized pieces.

2.  Toss roots in just enough oil to coat, and salt.

3.  Arrange “fries” in single layer on baking sheet.

4.  Bake in 400F oven until browned on bottom side.

5.  Flip roots with spatula, and return to oven until browned on other side.

6.  Remove from oven, plate “fries,” and enjoy warm.

Resources:

1.  Geneflow 2009 By Bioversity International.  http://books.google.com/books?id=QU3qxpHf4S4C&pg=PA21&dq=Sweet+Potato+Peru+domesticated&hl=en&ei=yyNDTs3fF5KosALa75zrCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=Sweet%20Potato%20Peru%20domesticated&f=false

2.  http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=916134

3.  http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/cgi-bin/list_nut_edit.pl

4.  http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminA/

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