I’ve always been a sucker for sweet, caramelized root veggies. Give me a tray of roasted carrots, parsnips, beets, and butternut squash (or even better, honeynut squash—they’re just so stinking cute!), and I’ll be happy. But to be honest, it’s not their flavor I’m in love with, in fact, they’re often too sweet. I mostly just like that they’re colorful and nutritious, two things I’m constantly craving in the middle of winter. After all, there aren’t many other veggies in season.
But that was before I discovered a game-changing way to cook them, and now, I’ll talk your ear off about how great they taste. It all started with a polenta recipe from Anna Jones’ A Modern Way to Cook. Before roasting her root vegetables, which she piles on top of the polenta, she quick-pickles them in a mixture of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and honey. This, she says, “gives them a delicious piquant note,” which intrigued me enough to try it out.
Boy am I glad I did. The oven-roasted veggies emerged extra crisp and caramelized, and each one was bursting with sweet, tangy flavor. Whereas classic roasted root veggies don’t elicit much excitement, these quick-pickled ones are jam-packed with intensity, ready to perk up sleepy grain bowls or boring breakfast hashes. Just one batch will make you a believer.
The Best Formula for Pickling Your Root Veggies
Though Anna’s recipe calls for finely sliced veggies, I like to start with 1-inch cubes, which offer a more crispy-creamy texture. Any root vegetable is game here, from winter squash to rutabaga to potatoes of any sort. The acids and sweetener are interchangeable, too: try orange juice in place of lemon, and apple cider vinegar instead of red wine. Maple syrup would be a delicious stand-in for honey.
After peeling and chopping the veggies, place them in a large bowl and toss them with the pickling liquid. I use one tablespoon of lemon juice, one teaspoon of red wine vinegar, and one teaspoon of honey per pound of veggies. Allow them to soak up the pickling liquid for at least 10 minutes while the oven preheats.
When you’re ready to roast, use your hands to scoop the veggies onto a sheet pan, leaving any excess liquid in the bowl (too much of it will cause the veggies to steam instead of crisp). Toss with olive oil (again, I use one tablespoon per pound of veggies), season with salt and pepper, and roast until deeply caramelized. Use the leftover pickling liquid in a salad dressing or marinade—or save it for another round of roasting.