Anytime I can whole roast anything, I’d go for it. The prep time is minimal, no knife skill is required. Perfect recipe for a robot or a young child. All you need is your ability to program an oven. My favorite whole roasted vegetable is the cauliflower. I have it programmed in my oven since I used the technique so frequently. Just clean the vegetable, season it with salt and pepper, rub olive oil all over it. I like roasting it in a cast-iron skillet. Place it in the oven. An hour or so later, the smell of the cauliflower would inform you it is done. The beautiful brown crust outside is another sign that it’s ready to take center stage. I say that because anything tall and whole has a commanding presence; the whole roasted technique makes it possible.
It has been a while since I uncover another vegetable I can whole roast. It is the celery root. I found the recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s NOPI. It’s hardly a recipe since there is no other ingredient involved and the step is to roast the celery root in a 375°F (or 340°F convection) oven. Roast until a knife inserted into the flesh goes in easily. Ottolenghi says it takes 3 hours, it took me about two.
The skin of the celery root becomes crispy and the interior is creamy. You might want to serve it with the skin because it looks great, but it can be coarse and bitter. It makes a simple side or a stand-alone appetizer. Cut into wedges and served with a bowl of crème fraîche and wedges of lemon to squeeze over.
|Relishing the burn|
I also made a simplified romesco sauce as a dip. Romesco, a popular Spainish version of the Italian pesto sauce, is usually made with tomatoes. Since it is not tomato season, I keep it light and simple without the tomatoes, just red bell peppers, hazelnuts, garlic, olive oil and sherry vinegar. Add some chili pepper if you like some heat.
Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix calls for roasting the red bell peppers under the broiler, I roasted mine over the open flame on a gas stove where I can easily turn the peppers and watch the fire. The skin darkens rather quickly. Put the blackened peppers in a brown bag. When they are cool to handle, remove the skins, seeds and stems under running water. All the romesco ingredients then go into the high-power blender, my preferred kitchen appliance for this task, stream in more olive oil until the puree turns into a thick paste. I like having extra romesco sauce around. It is a workhorse and goes well with vegetables as well as proteins.
|Romesco sauce made with roasted red pepper and hazelnuts|