Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.
Today: Roasted root vegetables -- a perfect side or snack.
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This column has focused primarily on main dishes over the past several months. And I realize I've been writing a lot about meat lately -- it seems we have a voracious little carnivore on our hands. But Clara loves her vegetables too. (She gets almost as excited about broccoli as she did about the bunny-shaped cookie the size of her head my mother gave her for Easter.) So I end up cooking a lot of vegetables to supplement all the chicken and meatballs. Plus, they're great for toting around as snacks.
I prepare the vegetables simply, steaming or sauteing bite-sized pieces with a little olive oil and salt, cooking them until only just tender so that they won't fall apart when they're grabbed up by little hands. When it comes to root vegetables (still going strong here on the East Coast), I like to roast; this highlights their sweetness, caramelizing the surfaces to provide a crisp contrast to their melting insides. My technique doesn't stray far from the tenets outlined in this helpful guide for roasting pretty much any kind of vegetable: cut the veggies into uniform pieces, use plenty of olive oil and salt (and whatever herbs you like), and roast them in a hot oven, tossing halfway through.
Over the weekend I usually make a big batch (about double the size of the recipe below) and keep a tub in the fridge for meals and snacks. Use whatever combination of root vegetables you like, and serve them either warm or at room temperature.