There’s no denying our days are getting shorter but just before the endless gray begins, orange vegetables bring some vibrant color to the table to ease the transition. Not only do they provide visual warmth but they’re loaded with all sorts of goodness to help boost our immune systems as we enter into the darkness. Antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C — all the help you’ll need to stay healthy.
Winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, to name a few of my favorites, all work together in a delicious gratin or are excellent additions to soups, stews or winter salads. I based this Orange Vegetable Gratin recipe on Heidi Swanson’s Winter Rainbow Gratin from her book, Super Natural Cooking – an inspired guide to using whole foods and natural ingredients in everyday cooking. It’s not dairy-free but sans cream and still incredibly comforting.
Orange Vegetable Gratin Recipe
Ingredients: 1/2 large winter squash, seeded, peeled and cut into cubes/ 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes/ 2 carrots, cut in half lengthwise, then into chunks/ 2 shallots, thinly sliced/ 3 T butter or olive oil/ 1/4 cup bread crumbs/ 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese/ Salt & pepper.
Directions: Heat butter or oil in large ovenproof skillet (you want the veggies to be in a single layer so you may have to use two skillets for this step) over medium-high heat/ Saute the veggies for about 15 minutes until they start to brown, tender but not mushy/ Preheat oven to 375/ Transfer all the vegetables to one ovenproof skillet or baking dish/ Sprinkle with salt, pepper, bread crumbs and 1/2 the cheese — don’t stir, just let the bread crumbs and cheese sit on top so they’ll get crunchy as they cook/ Bake uncovered skillet in oven for about 40 minutes, you can lightly toss the veggies halfway through/ Remove from oven when everything is golden and caramelized but soft and tender inside/ Sprinkle with remaining cheese and serve right from the skillet.
If you want to, add any other seasonal fruits or vegetables — potatoes and apples would be good.
Roasted winter squash is a classic autumnal treat — straight out of the pan (which is so simple I almost didn’t include a recipe) or cooled to room temperature in a complex sweet and sour salad with toasted almonds and spicy golden raisins like this recipe for Pumpkin Agrodolce from the new Franny’s cookbook by Melissa Clark, Andrew Feinberg and Francine Stephens.
Roasted Winter Squash Recipe
Ingredients: Any winter squash, seeded, peeled and cut into wedges/ Olive oil/ Salt & freshly ground pepper.
Directions: Preheat oven to 400/ Toss the squash wedges with olive oil, salt and pepper/ Arrange in one layer on rimmed baking sheet/ Roast for 25 minutes and then carefully turn the wedges over/ Return to the oven, continue to roast, checking after 10 – 15 minutes/ It’s done when the center is tender and the outside is caramelized, golden brown and crispy.
Some additional recipes for orange winter vegetables from Mixed Greens:
Curried Root Soup – one of my favorite recipes by Sally, Mashed Winter Squash with Bay Butter – a good candidate for a Thanksgiving side dish, Spicy Squash and Apple Soup – another great Sally classic, a creamy Winter Squash Gratin – an oldie but still one of my favs.
These recipes should help you get your orange on but if you’re still not really feelin’ it, head out to your local pumpkin patch. That’ll do the trick (and treat).