Just barely into our CSA challenge, I had a midweek meltdown.
Someone in my empty-nest, two-person household sent me a text saying he was picking up dinner. "Don't get any vegetables!" I texted back, anxious about the eight kinds of vegetables getting older by the day in our refrigerator. It had been a busy first half of the week, with parents visiting and late nights at work. Most of the spinach and all of the strawberries were eaten, and the kale was being cryogenically preserved in the freezer, but the rest of the week's pickup was, as yet, uneaten.
My text was too late. When I got home, we had four new servings of prepared vegetables from Wegmans in the fridge, including yet more broccoli to add to the head and a half of fresh broccoli from the Community Supported Agriculture box.
I felt defeated, dismayed and dejected. What was I going to do with all my poor produce? I pondered this question as I had half a head of steamed broccoli for dinner.
I started by making two lists on two Post-it notes: One listed all the veggies left in the fridge and the other noted the prepared foods left in the fridge as leftovers. "We have three days to eat all this," I announced to my husband and the cats (who aren't allowed to eat any of it but looked interested). "Let's stay focused."
The next day, after work, I started a root roast. For those of you thinking, "Oooh, yay, a 'roast' with veggies, please redirect your thoughts. A root roast is basically a bunch of roasted veggies all mixed together as a side dish.
I started pulling veggies out of the fridge and quickly realized the first thing I love about root roast: You don't have to know which are which. Everything with a stalk was going to be mixed together, as well as some small red potatoes I'd picked up at the grocery store.
I grabbed each veggie by the stalk (which for some reason made me flash back to what it feels like to hold a Barbie by her mane of hair, which everyone does at some point), wash it and then peel it after chopping off the bottom root. Then I chopped each into chunks of about an inch. I used radishes, mini onions, beets, turnips and the potatoes.
I'd found a couple recipes for root roast — one from Wolfgang Puck and one from Bon Appetit. They were similar to each other, and so I decided to follow both and neither at the same time. They had additional veggies in the mix, including things like carrots, parsnips and kohlrabi. I refused to buy any more veggies. The two recipes differed in their cooking times, one giving a 45-minute total and one suggesting an hour and 15 minutes, both at 400 degrees. I decided to split the difference and go for an hour.
One suggested adding chopped fresh rosemary, the other sprigs of rosemary, thyme or sage.
I went out to my container garden and grabbed rosemary, thyme and sage, bringing all of them to my nose for a deep inhale, thinking about how much I absolutely love fresh herbs. I then wondered for a brief moment if people could actually develop an addiction to herbs. Then I thought: Um, duh.
My root roast was ready at 10 p.m., which is generally when I am getting ready for bed. I was thinking originally that we'd have it with dinner the next day, but suddenly I realized that my broccoli-only dinner had left me hungry. I made myself a bowl, and dug in, discovering the second thing I love about root roast: It's delicious.
Why hadn't I ever made this before, I thought. Truthfully, I'd never cooked a radish, turnip or beet in my life. What a mistake. This was like roasted potatoes, which I love, but more complex.
The next morning, I decided to use my final two eggs from this week's share in an omelet, using some extra spinach. But I still had more spinach left. Then I had a thought: The root roast might be like a hash brown/roasted potato kind of thing. I tossed some olive oil in a pan, added some of the root roast and the last of the spinach.
My breakfast reminded me of something I'd had in a seaside restaurant in Malibu, Calif., five or six years ago when we were looking at colleges for my son. Fresh and flavorful. Decadent but healthy.
Best of all, the only thing left on my Post-it lists from the CSA was a head of romaine. Totally eatable in the two days before the next pickup.