The leaves have fallen off the trees and the skies are consistently grey. It’s time to head to the farmers’ markets for a dose of colour! Vibrant heirloom carrots, creamy parsnips, ruby red beets, and yellow and red mini potatoes are in season now, so a colourful roasted vegetable platter will impress at the dinner table (or Christmas table for those already planning menus). Serve it with a side of this garlicky quinoa and grilled chicken seasoned with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning for a meal that you can also pack for lunch the next day.
Colourful Roasted Vegetables and Garlic Quinoa
1 bunch baby heirloom carrots, peeled and cut into smaller sticks
1 bunch baby parsnips, peeled
2 whole garlic bulbs, tops sliced off
4 whole beets
24 red and yellow mini potatoes
1 cup dried quinoa, rinsed and strained
1 1/2 cups water
Vegetable or avocado oil*
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven at 400°F.
2. In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch the potatoes for five minutes. Drain and let dry.**
3. Toss the parsnips, carrots, garlic bulbs, and potatoes with oil, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a large bowl.
4. Wrap whole, unpeeled beets individually in aluminum foil.***
5. Place all the vegetables in a single layer on two large baking trays lined with parchment paper. Bake for an hour until the vegetables are soft, begin to appear wrinkled, and become fragrant.
6. In the meantime, bring 1 1/2 cups of salted water to a boil in a small pot over medium heat. Add in the quinoa, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the water has evaporated and the quinoa has a fluffy texture. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.
7. When the vegetables are done roasting, remove from oven. Take three or four garlic cloves from the bulb and dice (or mash) into smaller pieces. Add the garlic into the pot with the quinoa. Gently toss with a fork.****
8. Remove the beets from the aluminum foil and peel off the skin. Slice the beets into thin slices.
9. Arrange the vegetables on a platter and serve with the garlic quinoa. Serves four generously.
*Avoid using olive oil when cooking or roasting at high temperatures. Olive oil smokes and becomes bitter when exposed to high temperatures, so use oil that has a higher smoke point like vegetable or my current obsession, avocado.
**Have you ever roast potatoes and find that the insides are still hard and raw even after an hour of cooking? Blanch the potatoes first to give them a head start at cooking. This will give the potatoes their pillowy, almost mashed texture inside and a crispy skin on the outside. This extra step was a revelation for me.
***Unlike most vegetables where you first peel then roast, the skin of beets are much easier to remove when you roast them first. You’ll notice that you can literally peel the skin right off with your fingers once the beet is roasted. Of course, let the beet cool first so you don’t burn yourself. You’ll also want to do the peeling over the baking sheet and close to the sink since beet juice stains everything it touches.
****Garlic is downright heavenly when it caramelizes in the oven, creating a sweeter and less sharp garlic taste compared to its raw state. Leftover roasted garlic cloves can be added to soups, hummus, spreads, other roasted vegetables, grains, heck, it makes everything better.
Karon Liu is a freelance food writer based in Toronto who is slightly lactose intolerant but will otherwise eat and cook anything.