Farmer's Market Roast with Leek Vinaigrette
Listen, we live in a populated world. And America, to boot. It takes a minute for the farmers to harvest, for the trucks to load, for the shipments to be processed, and for all of the things that you and I earnestly strive to keep on the dining table at least... well, two weeks, maybe more, to get to us. That is, unless we get it from the farmer's market. Then, then it takes a single day. And then we are supporting families, not corporations. And we are serving the environment, not sucking it dry.
You have read all of the studies about vegetables losing all of their vital nutrients quickly upon harvest, so why not be smart about it and get them whilst they still contain the things that keep us feeling healthy and strong? It's a no-brainer, really. Living in any major city (or heck, small town at this point), there is really no reason that you cannot make a trip to the market once a week. I stock my fridge for seven days long in one trip. It takes me about an hour and a half. And that includes walking the dog somewhere along the way.
One last thing, before I get off of my soapbox, and I probably don't even have to to say this, but one should never, ever buy pre-bagged produce from the market. If it's already slimy and yellow in the bag, you can be sure that it was harvested, well, at least three weeks before.
Be good to yourself. It has an enormous impact on your health and the health of your family. I've said it over and again. Get your dry goods from the market, preferably one who supports local farmers and small artisans, but always procure your produce from the farmer's market or a reputable market that guarantees that what they carry was still in the ground not very long before it hit their shelves. You know, Berkeley Bowl, Bi-Rite, or whatever fabulous green grocer you have in your neighborhood.
So this past Sunday I got a bunch of dirty things - a clump of beets, still scintillant with the dirt they were grown in, an obscenely large head of romanesco, a bunch of purple carrots. I cleaned them up, and while they were roasting, I put together a leek vinaigrette. All I have to say is oh my. Get to the market now. I can't think of anything more satisfying than knowing that as I am having my coffee, my farmer is loading up a truck with components for my salad, having just pulled them from the ground. I don't know about you, but this thought will get me out of bed at the crack of dawn every single time. That and the fact that produce at the farmer's market is a third the price of XX grocery store. $1.00 for a bunch of beets vs. $2.99.
Have a look.
Makes 2 decent-sized salads
For the roasted veg, gather together:
A bunch of small beets
A bunch of purple carrots, or better yet, a combination of colors
A head of romanesco
For the vinaigrette, gather together:
A good-sized leek
3 TB good quality Spanish sherry vinegar
6 TB good quality olive oil
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
A couple of sprigs worth of fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Separate the greens from the beets. Hang on to the greens to make juice, a gratin, a saute or any number of things later. Wash the beets very well. You will be eating the skins. Separate the greens from the carrots. I used to toss the feathery beauties, but now I make pesto or toss them into salads. Wash the carrots very well. Wash the romanesco, then snip off the pointy florets. About two cups worth. Slice them in half if they are large.
Toss the beets with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Get into a cast iron pan. Cover tightly with a lid or foil and dry roast until tender when skewered. Don't over roast. There should be the slightest bit of give when you poke them. Beets take 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how large they are. Cool right in the pan.
When the beets are roasting, start your vinaigrette. Slice up the leek into small flags, rinse. Sweat the leeks until very tender. Cool (I scraped mine onto a plate, spread them out and popped them in the fridge to cool).
When the beets are cooling (they take a while to cool), toss the carrots in a bit of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Spread over a sheet pan and roast until al dente. Don't over roast. They will continue to cook when you pull them out of the oven. They don't take that long to roast, especially if they are thin. Cool on the sheet pan.
At the same time, toss the romanesco florets in olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Oh, and toss some of the romanesco leaves in there too. A pretty addition to the salad. Spread out on a sheet pan and roast until the florets begin to turn golden. They don't take long. About as long as the carrots. Cool on the sheet pan.
When the carrots and romanesco are cooling, finish the vinaigrette. Get about a half a cup of the cooled leeks into a bowl along with the rest of the ingredients: the dijon mustard, the olive oil and sherry vinegar, a pinch of salt and a bit of cracked fresh pepper, the thyme leaves.
Compose the salad.
Slice the tops of the beets off. They are gritty, no matter how well you think you cleaned them. Slice them in half lengthwise. Slice some of the carrots in half lengthwise, keeping the smaller ones whole. Slice the romanesco leaves into thirds if you roasted some.
Arrange the vegetables on a couple of gorgeous plates then drizzle/dollop the vinaigrette over the whole shebang.
Mangia bene, vivi felice!