Roasted Root Vegetables and Carrot Top Pesto

Happy Belated Birthday to me! It was on Tuesday! My age sounds so young, but I feel so old. I can hear my mom scoffing at that in my mind. Sorry, mom, I won’t call myself old anymore. To celebrate,  C and I went to a lovely vegan restaurant in Vancouver, called Graze, where we had a fantastic three-course meal. We both had their featured small plate to start which was a ravioli with some asparagus and a hollandaise-type cashew cream, for mains I ate the Wild Mushroom Purse and C had the Harvest, and we polished it off with an espresso cashew cheesecake with balsamic figs and a nutty chocolate trifle with candied peaches and lavender coconut whipped cream. This was a seriously good meal and you can ogle at it on my instagram here .

I guess birthdays aren’t really a big deal to me anymore. I remember when I used to want to have these elaborate birthday plans, complete with an itinerary for my friends. Like the year that I insisted that we go to the movies, then have a big slumber party that night, and THEN wake up super early and go to a Waterpark. And my parents totally let me. I know that I wouldn’t have let me have those kind of marathon birthdays, but I guess they got it out of my system.

I think my birthday plans started going downhill after I moved to Vancouver. I know that 21 is supposed to be a big deal but I was already a legal adult in every way in Canada so it was like “oh ok I guess we’ll go to the usual bar?” But it’s not the magical “coming out” to the world of alcohol (as if anyone has ever waited that long to have a sip of beer in the first place!) that I always imagined it would have been. So I think that’s when birthdays stopped being my special day and started being just another day. Which, personally, I don’t understand why the world needs to revolve around any one person on their birthday or why anyone can use the “but it’s my birthday, you need to do this for me” excuse. Because you should surround yourself with people that want to treat you well regardless of what day it is, right? Exactly! So I spent the day with my favourite person, like I do everyday, and it was just a normal day with a nice dinner (ok so I used the birthday excuse for yummy food, can you blame me?!) and that’s the kind of perfect birthday for me.

Originally, I thought I would make some sort of birthday cake with some emerging spring flavours like lemon or lavender or rose. But when I was at the produce market I kept thinking about these special harvest meals. I would be lying if I said that my birthday meal wasn’t an inspiration for this recipe! At both of the slightly more upscale vegan places we’ve been to this past year, I’ve noticed that the seasonal (winter/early spring) menu has had a “harvest” meal consisting of a mixture of cozy roasted vegetables with fresh herbs and a nice sauce. As I walked around I felt myself being pulled towards the root vegetables and herbs! So here we are with something rustic and not over-thought. No nonsense, just delicious vegan comfort food. C says “this is so much better than yesterday’s dinner” but that’s obvious considering I accidentally used waaaay too much red pepper flakes in that meal. That’s a story for another day.

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Ok so being completely honest here, I have never cooked parsnips until today. However, I have eaten parsnips several times and I figured that most roots cook about the same anyway so I gave it a shot. Parsnips are really just the starchy, weird cousin to carrots plus they have a lot of potassium (more than bananas!), so that’s good! When I was peeling the parsnips, the scent reminded me a lot of pears.. like when a pear isn’t ripe so it’s not very sweet. I tasted a raw bit and it kind of tasted like an under-ripe pear, too! Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps pears and parsnips would make an interesting pairing…

I always, always, always buy bunches of vegetables in hope that I’ll actually use the greens for something (sometimes I do… usually they end up in the garbage disposal- oops!). But today I actually did! I also discovered that a large part of the population believes that carrot tops are inedible but, let me tell you, they are totally safe to eat so there’s nothing to worry about. I used carrot tops in a fresh pesto today!

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Lovely root veggies, haphazardly thrown on a plate, dripped and smeared in pesto. If this isn’t rustic and comforting then I don’t know what is. Oh and then I put it on the wooden chest I’m currently using as a makeshift coffee table and it was just TOO RUSTIC so I had to snap a photo before chowing down. Let me use that foodie buzzword a couple more times before I type out this recipe.

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Rustic. Rustic. Rustic. Rustic. I feel like we’re on food network with how often I’m throwing this word around. Ok, I’ll stop talking so you can start cooking!

Harvest plate

Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 1 hour. Serves: 2 very hungry people.

For the Vegetables:

  • 1 medium purple yam
  • 1 large beet
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 3-4 medium parsnips
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 small bunch of fresh rosemary
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

For the Pesto*

  • carrot tops from one bunch of carrots
  • 1 large handful spinach (or kale)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 t fresh rosemary
  • 2 t tahini
  • salt & pepper

*note: This makes much more than you need for this dish. If you’d only like enough for 2 servings then omit the spinach and adjust accordingly.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. For the vegetables: peel the vegetables and cut the beet and yam into 3/4 in slices. Quarter the onion and pull it apart a little. With the flat side of a large cutting knife, smash the garlic against your cutting board. Place everything on 2 baking pans covered in parchment, making sure nothing is overlapping. Drizzle in olive oil and sprinkle the rosemary leaves (throw out the woody stems!). Roast for 1 hour, rotating them halfway through.
  3. For the pesto: While the vegetables are roasting, mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor until relatively smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust to your preferences! I found this amount was good but I added a little more lemon to mine because… I really like lemon!
  4. Throw vegetables on a plate, and toss some pesto on!

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