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This week's roots

If you haven’t already renewed your Freshness Farms family farm share, now is a great time.  This week marks our first delivery of the season and includes celery root, beets, carrots (all three pictured left to right, above), peppery arugula, endive, leaf lettuce, kale and mandarin oranges.  Check out our this week’s bag page for storage information and other details.  Besides the family farm share, this year we’ve added fruit share and juicing share options in response to your requests.

I’ve been pining for my weekly delivery—it’s what fuels my culinary inspiration and provides a starting point for our meals.  Frankly, I’m lost without it.  That’s what 15 years of CSA membership will do.  Lucky for us Northern California farm fields offer a variety of local produce in winter—unlike their frigid, snow-blanketed counterparts elsewhere.  In coming weeks we’ll see leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, chard, lettuces and arugula; roots galore—some gnarly and others vibrantly colored—like beets, carrots, celery root, parsnips and radishes; sweet, juicy citrus; winter squash; crucifers like cauliflower and broccoli, and much more.  It’s a slimmer line-up than other seasons, but still provides plenty of healthful options.  And spring is nearly just around the corner.

Since we could be a tad out of practice, why not turn to the simplest of simple to get ourselves back in the groove?  My all-time favorite:  roasted vegetables.  We need a hot oven to start—preheated to 375 or 400 degrees—and a load of peeled roots (celery, beet or carrot this week), cut into uniformly sized cubes.  We want pieces to be similar in size so they cook at the same rate—if some are larger, the smaller ones burn before the larger ones are tender.  And in the interest of time, we’ll make the cubes about one bite (or slightly larger) in size—this ensures that dinner gets on the table before the masses revolt.

Toss the vegetables with just enough olive oil to lightly coat them (too much means we’ll be frying instead of roasting) and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Spread across a rimmed baking sheet and pop the sheet into the oven.  It helps to separate different vegetable varieties onto their own baking sheets as some will cook faster than others.  I sometimes cover the pan contents with a sheet of foil during the first 15 minutes of cooking (especially those items that are delicate, or cut into small pieces), to ensure they don’t dry out.  Turn the vegetables once or twice during cooking with a spatula and poke with a fork to judge when they’re done.  Most likely we’re looking at 30 to 50 minutes in the oven.

Orange and Beet Salad with Fennel SeedRoasted vegetables provide a powerful flavor boost to jazz up all kinds of dishes—toss them into a salad, simmer with broth to create an impromptu soup, fold into cooked pasta, rice or whole grains.  Or simply spoon them on the plate alongside the main coarse.

Kabocha Squash and Celery Root SoupThe heat of the oven concentrates and intensifies the flavors and caramelizes the natural sugars—turning the ordinary winter root into the morsels of fantasy.  No lie.  And all without much effort really.  Welcome back.

So, give it a try.  Get creative. Toss roasted carrots with chopped cilantro, lime zest and juice, a drizzle of olive oil and toasted cumin seed.  Or layer in a salad with torn arugula leaves, cubed avocado, shaved red onion and your favorite dressing.  Roast a full load, with some onions, then puree in a soup pot with broth, salt and fresh pepper.  Garnish with a bit of buttermilk and toasted nuts.  Or dream up your own concoction.  With roasted veggies, you really can’t go wrong.

Recipes for the Week:

Roasted Celery Root and Squash Soup

Orange and Roasted Beet Salad with Fennel Seed

Kale, Carrot and Orange Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing

And don’t forget to browse the growing archive of recipes from past seasons.  They are indexed by ingredient on our home journal and recipe pages.

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