The sun feels warm again. It’s a subtle development, but a significant one. One day you step outside, and instead of immediately feeling your nostrils freeze, you actually feel the sun again.
And it’s in that moment that spring once again becomes a reality worth considering. For months, you completely shut out any thoughts of thaw…because when you do allow yourself the briefest moment of springtime desire, January looks down its cold, long nose at you and laughs as you slip on the ice…again.
But now, the sun is back, and you can feel it on your cheeks, and you consider going back inside and trading your down-sleeping-bag of a coat for your fleece. You momentarily think about stowing away your electric blanket for the rest of the year, along with the more stalwart mittens in your collection, because not only does the sun feel sunny again but your husband is also daily telling you spring training updates. And this means that baseball, yes baseball, is just around the corner, even though you just went up to over-your-boot in icy slush while trying to cross the street.
It’s around this time of year that I get the urge to travel somewhere warm and equatorial. I know…it seems like the itch to go would hit me in the deep, dark depths of winter, but it’s almost like I am resigned to hibernating when the temperature struggles to get above zero for weeks on end and the sun barely manages to stay up for a full eight-hour work day.
But once the sun comes back, I start to remember. I remember the beach, and sandals, and what it feels like to not wrestle on six layers of clothing on a squirmy baby, and I think, yeah…right about now, a trip to somewhere warm would be nice. And then I read blog posts like this one, pictorially detailing a 24-hour motorcycle trip up the coast in the Philippines, and I wonder anew why I live at this latitude. Last year around this time, we went to Florida for a little pre-baby vacation, but this year, we’re going no farther than Fargo…womp womp.
So I turn to food. And although my conscience (and taste buds) won’t allow me to buy fresh peaches and tomatoes this time of year, I can pretend with some root vegetables parading around as summer fare.
And that’s what this bruschetta is all about. It’s a bit of a poser, but I’m okay with looking the other way and pretending anyway. You make up a spice mixture of some pretty exotic players: cumin seeds, coriander, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, and orange zest…and then add it to some very un-exotic wintery vegetables like sweet potatoes, onions, and butternut squash (plus some frozen bell peppers from your freezer!). And voila! Roasted and then topped with a little orange juice, cilantro, and parsley, the root vegetables go through a very Cinderellaific transformation and become something you might just eat while sitting at an ocean-side café, wearing sunglasses and a tank top.
You could stop there and eat an entire bowl of these veggies for lunch, like I did, or you could put them on top of some rice or cous cous…or you could make them a topping for bruschetta, a textural choice I highly recommend. Some buttered slightly garlicky bread, toasted, and then topped with these fragrant spicy-sweet veggies is a combination worthy of the February sun.
(recipe adapted from Epicurious )
(yields app. 6 servings)
These Moroccan roasted vegetables have a perfect spicy-sweet flavor punctuated by bits of brightness from the fresh ginger and orange zest. The veggies make a perfect topping as a bruschetta, as the toasted bread lends a nice crunchy texture. I found the original recipe a little one dimensional, so I added garlic, ginger, and the fresh herbs to balance the sweetness and used cumin seeds instead of ground cumin. The orange zest and juice that I added brightened the flavor considerably. I turned this recipe into a bruschetta because I felt the roasted vegetables needed a crunchy texture to balance them.
1/2 lb. shallot, halved (quartered if large)
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 lb. (or 1 large) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch thick strips OR
about 1 1/2 c. frozen bell pepper, chopped *(see note in recipe)
1 tsp. coarse salt
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 inch (1 heaping tbsp.) fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 orange: zest from the whole; reserved juice from half
1 tbsp. butter
1 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 fresh baguette, cut on a bias into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tbsp. butter
Preheat oven to 375*. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat foil with 1 tbsp. olive oil using a pastry brush to coat it.
Place shallots on lined baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tsp. olive oil, and toss to coat.
Roast shallots on middle rack of oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
Meanwhile, place squash, sweet potato, and bell pepper IF USING FRESH SLICES (if using frozen bell peppers, add later [see below]), in a large bowl. Pour in 2 tbsp. of olive oil, as well as the salt, cumin seeds, ground coriander, cinnamon, garlic cloves, ginger, and orange zest. Gently turn until the vegetables are evenly coated.
Add vegetables to the partially cooked shallots on the baking sheet. Spread so that they are in a mostly single layer Dot vegetables with pieces of the 1 tbsp. of butter and roast for about 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so until the vegetables are fork-tender (If using frozen bell peppers, add about 10 minutes before the cooking time is over). Remove from oven and lightly squeeze orange juice over the vegetables.
Once vegetables are slightly cooled, chop into smaller bruschetta-sized pieces.
To toast the bread, preheat oven to 400* and move rack to top position. Butter one side of the baguette slices and place butter-side-down on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet on the top rack and toast for 3-5 minutes until bread is slightly crunchy and golden brown on the buttered side.
Once bread is toasted, spoon roasted vegetables on top of each slice, and top with a pinch of the fresh cilantro and parsley.