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In praise of the big bowl of vegetables

bowl of various vegetables

The Big Bowl of Veggies, Winter Edition

It is January. The Monday of the year. Time to get back in the saddle. Sigh. The house is clean and the holidays are behind me, and while I look forward to the quiet of a new year, I always feel a little empty. The idea that I need to eat like a responsible adult is always something of a grim prospect, and this time of year it feels like adding insult to injury.

In an attempt to make this yearly transition a bit less jarring than usual, I have been experimenting with foods that feel comforting but meet the metrics (low fat, high fiber, vitamin rich) of a healthy meal. After lots of experimentation, I’ve come up with what I think of as my secret weapon – a dish that is endlessly flexible, always tasty, and easy to make. In short, this dish is a perfect way to start the new year.

Regular readers of this column may recall that in late summer, I wrote about a seasonal feast of veggies fresh from the farmers market. Since I wrote that particular article, I have found myself creating nearly endless versions of that dish, something I have come to call “the big bowl of vegetables” or the BBOV.  The BBOV is handy because it cuts down on food waste by helping me use up produce that might otherwise languish. It is tasty fresh from the oven, but also makes great leftovers that can be enjoyed hot or cold.

The BBOV is an excellent side dish with grilled meat and is great on its own with the addition of bread or a starchy veggie like chickpeas or potatoes. The simple formula is to chop vegetables uniformly, coat them in just a kiss of olive oil, season, and roast. Roasting makes most veggies sweet and a bit crisp. Delightful.

I didn’t know if I could use my BBOV formula in the dead of winter, though. I find that when it is warm outside and produce is plentiful, I struggle very little to think of ways to consume a plant-based diet in ways that are delicious. When the weather is cold, and farmers markets are closed, it can be harder. All is not lost, though, even when it is bleak outside and the supermarket is uninspiring. Instead of bemoaning the fact that the produce available is mostly of the everyday (and possibly a bit bland) variety, this dish leans into it, using the veggies as a hearty canvas for warm, rich seasoning. A sprinkle of cilantro and a squeeze of lime adds a freshness to this BBOV that belies its otherwise wintry flavors.

There is nothing fussy about this sheet pan meal. It is tasty on its own, and I often whip it up for a meatless Monday meal that I enjoy again on Tuesday for lunch. If I add a piece of naan or a spoonful of hummus, I find that I stay satisfied for hours without feeling overfull or uncomfortable. It is the perfect way to fill a bowl on a winter evening, gazing at the falling snow, with a taste that warms me from the inside out, thinking about the promise of a new year right outside my window.


The Big Bowl of Veggies, Winter Edition

  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red pepper flakes (optional) to taste
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (an Indian spice blend that can be found at most supermarkets)

Heat the oven to 400. On a parchment-lined, rimed sheet pan, scatter the potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and onions. In a small bowl, mix the ginger, garlic, olive oil, cumin seeds, turmeric and garam masala, whisking until well combined. Pour over the veggies and mix with clean hands or two large spoons until well coated. Spread the vegetables into a single layer and liberally salt, then grind pepper to taste and add a pinch of red pepper flakes, if desired. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring halfway through baking time. Remove pan from the oven and drizzle with lime, stirring to coat. Taste and add salt if desired, then sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Article and photo by Lisa Crockett




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