More earthiness

The posts will be short these days, as this is family time. And perhaps my creative energy, like the sun, makes itself available on a shorter schedule during these dark, northern winters. These are times for digging down, burrowing, reading the neglected book (mine is Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park).

These are also times for bucking that hunkering instinct and venturing out into the winter world only to realize it offers just as much as the summer one, but with more secrecy and reserve.You have to really look. And then you see the jewels of the season hovering under the obscuring fog: hoarfrost, abandoned seed pods, mistletoe in full force, and at least here in France, the glorious green of winter grass blanketing fields that lie still, gathering energy for what’s to come in the new year: oat, rapeseed, and wheat. Which is all to say that underground things are happening. Things are making ready. Things are alive. And some of these things, we eat.

Browsing the grocery store produce department the other day, I ran into some of them—winter vegetables that are hard to come by in Italy at all. It takes cold and a “cold culture” to know and love these knobbly edibles: parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips. I’ll be chopping these up together with onion, leek, garlic, carrot and Charlotte potatoes, then roasting them for 50 minutes or more in a hot oven, with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt and a sage leaf or two. (The rosemary died. Otherwise, I’d use that.) I’ll toss once or twice during the roasting so that all the edges begin to take on the color of caramelization. Then I’ll tuck into that root-y, underground world of earthy tastes: surprising sweetness, a small nip of bitterness, and that something wonderful in rutabaga, garlic and parsnip that bites back.

P.S. I’d gladly add yellow or red beets, but all that’s available in the store is pre-cooked beets. And that won’t do.

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9 Responses to More earthiness

  1. Anna Harrison says:

    Pre-cooked beets! Horrors!
    Lovely pictures, literally and figuratively, Charlotte. xox, A

  2. Debra Kolkka says:

    I am enjoying mangoes and stone fruit here in Australia right now. Soon I will be back in Italy for the last of winter to get stuck into these winter delights.

  3. ron says:

    we’re LOVING roasted beets (red and yellow). seems to tone the earthiness down a bit and make it more meat-like, soft but firm on the teeth (do the italians have a word for this?). diced and tossed with arugula, olive oil, lemon juice, himalayan salt, ground pepper, walnuts and goat cheese…..YUM!

    what’s next!

  4. Charlotte says:

    Yes…goat cheese, walnuts and beets. Perfect combo. Arugula for bite. Himalayan salt…haven’t had that, but I bet it’s good. What color is it? In Mauritius we had some black salt that was really good. What’s next? I don’t know. But I’m going to find out…I think it’s going to be a roasted vegetable lasagna made with polenta instead of pasta.

  5. Karen says:

    I love what roasting does to root vegetables. It seems to mellow and intensify their flavors at the same time.

  6. Diane says:

    I had breakfast a little while back and now I’m inspired and hungry again! Thanks for this beautiful post. I love your comment, “And perhaps my creative energy, like the sun, makes itself available on a shorter schedule during these dark, northern winters.”

  7. You have lots of mistletoe? It must have been a lovely holiday for you in France. We, in the US have had a dire shortage of mistletoe, and nothing can take its place. But love the root vegetables; I peel and cut parsnips and whatever veggies I can find, put a little olive oil and salt on top, and roast them in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. The natural sweetness comes right through. They’re wonderful.


  8. ceciliag says:

    I also love a variety of roasted root vegetables, have you ever tried roasted cauliflower, just set it in there roll once in the oil or butter while it is still hard then leave it and it goes so cream and tender while holding its shape, (if you serve gently) .. very tasty.. c

  9. I have! Silly, but I try roasting most everything. Never ate a roasted veg I didn’t like.

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