Recipes from the Root Cellar
Cooking with carrots, rutabagas, winter squash and other “keeper” crops from your garden
This is the time of year when a visit to the root cellar, or the basement, or wherever you store your “keeper” vegetables makes you realize… it’s time to get cooking! The carrots (or turnips or parsnips) are sensing spring and are sending out a few white hairs thinner than grandpa’s beard. The eyes on the potatoes are starting to bug. The rinds on the winter squash are still hard, but have lightened in color. You worked hard to grow these delicacies… so let’s not waste them. Here’s a pair of recipes — organic and non-GMO, of course — that we’ve found are good for those late season items that won’t last in storage forever. To the kitchen!
CARAMEL CARROT SOUP
This is a great way to boost the sweetness of late season carrots. There’s no caramel involved (unless… well, see below), instead we caramelize the carrots. But the kids like the idea that there’s caramel coming with the carrots. You can also use turnips or parsnips (or some combination) if you have them, but add an extra teaspoon of sweetener. Recipe was adapted from one in Mark Bittman’s excellent books How To Cook Everything Vegetarian:
- 8 – 12 good-sized carrots (hairs removed)
- 2 tablespoons verified non-GMO corn or canola oil; or 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 or 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey (or more to taste; or substitute 1 tablespoon sugar)
- 6 cups water or vegetable stock
- salt and pepper to taste
Slice carrots thinly and put in a skillet to hold them with 1 cup of the broth or water, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and the syrup or honey. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for five minutes. The idea is to cook the carrots until they start to soften.
Uncover and continue simmering until most of the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are still cooking in the oil/butter. Cook another 10 minutes until the carrots are very soft. If they stick to the bottom of the pan, add more stock.
When the carrots are fork tender, add the rest of the stock or water and bring to a boil, stirring to mix “caramel” from the bottom. Cook until the the mixture thickens slightly, another 10 or 15 minutes.
Turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool before removing to the blender (CAUTION! Blending hot liquids can be dangerous! Make sure the mixture has cooled; or use an immersion blender right in the skillet.) Puree.
Rewarm soup after pureeing. Garnish in bowls with chopped green onions, parsley or cilantro. Want to make the kids happy? Put a wrapped caramel on the side or, with wrapper off, right in the middle of the soup!
SQUASH PASTA SAUCE
This is our own recipe and a favorite with everyone in our house. By omitting the Italian seasoning and substituting a healthy tablespoon (or two!) of your favorite curry powder mix, you make a wonderful curry sauce for serving with cauliflower, peas and potatoes (sautee the curry in oil with the vegetables to bring out a toasty flavor). Yams can also be substituted for the squash.
- 1 large winter squash such as butternut, kabocha or hubbard; acorn squash can also be used…it makes a lighter sauce. Don’t use spaghetti squash; it’s too stringy. Instead serve finished sauce over cooked spaghetti squash
- 2 tablespoons organic tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons 100% extra virgin olive oil (plain “olive oil” may be blended with other GMO oils… see# 3 here)
- 1 organic onion, chopped
- 2 (or why not 4?) cloves of organic garlic, chopped
- 1 red organic bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried organic Italian herb seasoning
- splash of red wine (optional)
- 2 cups (more or less) of vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
- dried, red organic chile flakes (optional)
Cut squash in half and bake at 350 degrees upside down in a baking dish with a couple tablespoons of water until fork tender; about 1 hour. While squash cools, gently sautee onion, garlic, red bell pepper until soft. Add dried herbs to vegetables.
Scrape squash meat (or yam) from cavity. Mash with fork. Add to pan. Turn up heat. Add tomato paste and wine if using. Cook for one or two minutes, mashing mixture further as needed.
Add stock and stir until well-mixed. Continue cooking for ten – 15 minutes until mixture thickens (like any good pasta sauce, the longer it cooks the better it will be; if sauce thickens too much add more stock).
Add salt and pepper, and nutmeg. Continue cooking. Add brown sugar and stir five minutes or so before serving. Depending on the sweetness of your squash, you may need more brown sugar. Serve with penne pasta (the tubes hold the sauce well) or your other favorite pasta. If your squash is stringy, you can puree the mixture after it cooks in a blender (let it cool first to avoid burns from splashing sauce) or food processor.