Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roasted root vegetables with fennel spice blend

My sister gave me a coffee grinder for my birthday so I could use it as a spice grinder. I had always relied on pre-ground spices before, including a lot of pre-mixed spice blends. Now that I have the spice grinder, I feel free to make whatever exotic spice blends I want. This month's Vegetarian Times had an interesting-looking fennel spice blend, so I made it, and now I'm trying to use it in a bunch of different stuff. It was OK but not great in hummus and pretty good sprinkled on roasted butternut squash seeds, but it was perfect with this vegetable roast.

The vegetables themselves were pretty exciting. We used a total of seven different vegetables. Five of them were new to me in cooking, although I have probably eaten them before. Instead of the usual sweet potatoes, we used a garnet yam and a Japanese sweet potato (at least that's what Central Market called them). The Japanese sweet potato had deep maroon skin but a white interior. It was stickier than regular potato or sweet potato when cooked.
Japanese sweet potato on the left, garnet yam on the right
I am looking forward to doing a potato and sweet potato roast with Japanese sweet potatoes and normal new potatoes. I think the contrast in texture and flavor would be neat since there wouldn't be a color contrast. The other new to me root vegetables were celery root, turnip, and rutabaga. The celery root was pretty neat. I only used half of it and plan on trying remoulade with the other half. The rutabaga and turnip mostly provided contrast. This dish took a lot of scrubbing and chopping, but other than that it was really easy. Next time I might start cooking the celery root before the other vegetables. It was still a bit crunchy when the other ones were done, but we didn't mind the textural contrast. We served this with a beautiful salad made by Jon and corn chowder I made while the veggies were roasting. That recipe should be posted here soon.

Roasted root vegetables with fennel spice blend
Of course, you can vary the roots as desired. I think we had about 8 cups total.

1 garnet yam
1 Japanese sweet potato
1/2 of a large celery root, peel removed (This is a bit annoying. Just accept that you'll lose some of the root and use a sharp knife to cut the peel away as best you can.)
2 carrots, peeled
3 beets, greens and "tails" cut off
1 turnip, peeled
1 rutabaga, peeled
1 tsp olive oil (not extra-virgin)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fennel spice blend (see next recipe)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Thoroughly wash and scrub all the vegetables that aren't peeled. Cut everything into 1 1/2-inch-ish chunks. Place all vegetables in a large baking pan. Mine was 13x9x2. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat thoroughly, adding a little more if necessary. Sprinkle with salt and fennel spice blend. Bake until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Sprinkle with more salt and fennel blend at the table if desired.

Fennel spice blend (from Vegetarian times)
If you don't have a spice grinder, you can use the same amounts of pre-ground spices instead.

1/4 cup whole fennel seeds
2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp paprika, either smoked or regular

Toast fennel seeds, coriander, and peppercorns in a dry skillet on medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until they are very fragrant and maybe have gotten a little golden. Put aside to cool. When they are cool, grind them with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder until they are just short of completely powdered. Stir in the cinnamon and paprika. Store in a resealable baggie or rinsed-out spice jar.

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