It might seem counterintuitive, with gardens slumbering under snow, but winter is a wonderful time to savor the heartiness of late-season vegetables.
"This salad has the chewy texture and nutty flavors I particularly crave when the nights (and probably the days) are cold, brightened by one of the glories of winter: pomegranate," writes Joe Yonan in his new cookbook "Cool Beans."
Yonan, food and dining editor of the Washington Post (and author of the newspaper's "Weeknight Vegetarian" column), is referring to an appealing medley of beans, squash and wild rice. It's an ideal addition to any holiday celebration, with the jewel-toned pomegranate adding a celebratory touch to the occasion.
All of these vegetable-forward recipes — culled from recently released cookbooks — have a splash of that special something, whether it's adding a festive cranberry flourish to a squash soup, or sneaking an umami boost into sweet potatoes, or tweaking the framework of a classic late-summer dish with the multicolored beauty of beets and parsnips.
Serve them on Thanksgiving, and return to them, again and again, to cheer up the coming winter months.
Root Vegetable Tian
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: The tian can be assembled or made ahead of time (and reheated, if desired). From "Open Kitchen" by Susan Spungen (Avery, 2020).
• 1 (15-oz.) can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
• 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/8-in. thick
• 3 medium beets, peeled and sliced 1/8-in. thick
• 3 large parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/8-in. thick
• 2 small red onions, sliced 1/8-in. thick
• 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped (or substitute 1 tsp. dried thyme)
• 1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tsp. salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine chickpeas and 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid and pulse until puréed. Spread the purée evenly on the bottom of a 9-inch round (2-quart) baking dish. Grab 2 or 3 slices each of sweet potato, beet, parsnip and onion. Starting at the outer edge of the dish, arrange the slices (with the slices standing up). Repeat, moving in a concentric circle until the ring is complete. Arrange the vegetables in a similar manner to fill up the center of the dish.
In a small bowl, combine the thyme and cheese.
Brush the vegetables with the olive oil and season with the salt and some pepper. Scatter the garlic and the cheese mixture over the top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, set baking dish on a baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is lightly browned and the vegetables are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 25 to 30 additional minutes. Remove from oven and serve warm or at room temperature.
Baked Sweet Potatoes with Maple Crème Fraîche
Note: "Fish sauce adds a spot of umami to the sauce, but you can use vegan fish sauce as an alternative," writes Nik Sharma in "The Flavor Equation" (Chronicle Books, 2020).
For sweet potatoes:
• 4 sweet potatoes (each about 7 oz.), preferably a yellow-fleshed variety such as Garnet or Jewel
• 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
• Fine sea salt
For the dressing:
• 1/2 c. crème fraîche or sour cream
• 1 tbsp. maple syrup or honey
• 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
• 2 tsp. fish sauce, optional
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
• Fine sea salt
• 2 tbsp. thinly sliced green onions, both green and white parts
• 2 tbsp. roasted peanuts
• 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, such as Aleppo, Maras or Urfa
• 1/2 tsp. freshly grated lime zest
To prepare sweet potatoes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Rinse and scrub the sweet potatoes under running tap water. Slice them lengthwise and place them in a roasting pan, cut-side facing up. Brush with the butter and season with salt. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and press around the edges to seal snugly. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, flip the sweet potatoes and bake, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are cooked thoroughly and are tender (a knife inserted into the center of a sweet potato should slide through easily). Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
To prepare dressing: In a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche (or sour cream), maple syrup (or honey), lime juice, fish sauce (optional), and pepper. Taste and season with salt.
To serve: Top the warm roasted potatoes with a few tablespoons of the crème fraîche dressing. Sprinkle with the green onions, peanuts, red pepper flakes and lime zest and serve with extra dressing on the side.
Winter Salad with Beans, Squash and Pomegranate
Note: "For something even heartier, replace the arugula with kale," writes Joe Yonan in "Cool Beans" (Ten Speed Press, 2020). "Be sure to remove the stems and to thinly slice and massage the leaves for a few minutes to make them silkier." Use cranberry (Borlotti), navy, cannellini or pinto beans, or chickpeas.
• 1/2 c. uncooked wild rice
• 1 lb. delicata or acorn squash
• 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste, divided
• 3 c. arugula
• 1 3/4 c. cooked beans (see Note), drained and rinsed
• 1 c. pomegranate seeds
• 1 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
• 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1/2 c. toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
• Microgreens or edible blossoms, optional
Place wild rice in a strainer and rinse in cold water to remove any debris. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine wild rice with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until the wild rice is tender and split, 30 to 55 minutes, depending on the type of wild rice.
While wild rice is cooking, set a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Use a serrated knife to slice off the stem end of the squash, then scoop out the seeds (reserve the seeds for roasting if you like). Cut the squash in half lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. When the oven is hot, scatter the squash slices on the preheated baking sheet, making sure not to overlap any. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
In a large bowl, toss the roasted squash with the cooked wild rice, arugula, beans, pomegranate seeds and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Drizzle the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over the salad and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top, garnish with the microgreens or flowers, if desired, and serve immediately.
Squash and Apple Soup with Cranberry Sauce
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: From "The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen" (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) by Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley.
For cranberry sauce:
• 1 1/2 c. cranberries, fresh or frozen
• 1/4 c. apple cider
• 1/4 c. maple syrup
• Salt to taste
• Crushed juniper, to taste
• 2 tbsp. sunflower oil
• 1/4 c. chopped shallot
• 2 lb. winter squash, seeded, peeled and cut into 1-in. cubes
• 1 tart apple, cored and chopped
• 1 c. cider
• 3 c. vegetable stock
• 1 tbsp. maple syrup, or more to taste
• Salt, to taste
• Sumac, to taste
To prepare cranberry sauce: In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine cranberries, apple cider, maple syrup, salt and juniper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook until the cranberries have popped and the mixture is thick. Remove from heat, transfer mixture to a fine-mesh sieve, press the mixture lightly with the back of a spoon to remove excess liquid, then transfer mixture to a bowl. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve warm or cold.
To prepare soup: In a deep, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the sunflower oil and sauté the shallots, squash and apple until the shallot is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cider and stock, increase the heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. With an immersion blender (or, working in batches, with a blender) purée the soup and return to the pot to warm. Season to taste with maple syrup, salt and sumac. Serve with a dollop of cranberry sauce.