We’re in the midst of a relentless winter here in the Northeast, with snowfall totals that have likely earned this season a place in the record books. I can’t remember what the city looks like without snow on the ground, and I’m becoming well acquainted with the sound of spinning wheels outside my window as people try to free their cars from some stubborn snowbanks. It’s fair to say that most of us are feeling a little weary of this weather by now, so why not take solace in a cozy meal – the kind that requires roasting tasty things in the oven and permeating the kitchen with lovely smells.
I’d been itching to try this recipe from Plenty for ages, and I finally gave it a spin during one of the latest snow days. The shallots, carrots, parsnips, and butternut squash take on a sweet, mellow flavor when they’re roasted, and the addition of chickpeas makes it a hearty vegetarian meal. The dried apricots are a nice touch – they add a little sweetness to the dish and soften up a bit in the oven, a bit like prunes in a tagine. I used quinoa instead of the couscous called for in the original recipe – but I think any small grain (or seed, in the case of quinoa) will do. And the spices – star anise, ginger, turmeric, paprika – not only impart plenty of warmth and depth, but give the dish great color. The finished product has a golden, sunny hue -reminiscent of warmer days that (I hope!) lie ahead. These spiced roasted vegetables are just the thing to see you through another snow day; easily eaten while you’re curled up on the sofa making a dent in your Netflix queue.
Roasted spiced vegetables over quinoa
Makes 4 servings
Adapted from Plenty (“The ultimate winter couscous”)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
8 small or 4 large shallots, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
5 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp hot paprika
¼ tsp chile flakes
2 ½ cups diced butternut squash (about 10 oz.)
½ cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup chickpeas (canned or freshly cooked)
1 – 1 ½ cups chickpea cooking liquid and/or water
1 cup quinoa
pinch of saffron
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp harissa paste
1 oz preserved lemon, finely chopped
2 cups cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the carrots, parsnips and shallots into a large, ovenproof dish and add the cinnamon, star anise and bay leaves. In a small bowl mix ¾ teaspoon of salt with all the other spices. Add the spices and four tablespoons of oil to the vegetables and mix well. Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
- Add the squash, stir, and return to the oven. Roast for an additional 35 minutes, by which time the vegetables should have softened while retaining a bite.
- Add the apricots, chickpeas, and cooking liquid/water, then return to the oven for 10 minutes or until hot.
- Around 15 minutes before the vegetables will be ready, cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. Stir the remaining olive oil, butter, and saffron into the cooked quinoa.
- To serve, fill the base of a deep plate with quinoa. Stir the harissa and lemon into the vegetables, taste, adjust the seasoning and spoon on to the centre of the couscous. Garnish with the cilantro leaves.