“January’s okay. I like it in fact. It’s the proper winter month.”
O Winter! Ruler of the inverted year, I crown thee kind of intimate delights, fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness, and all the comforts that the lovely roof of undisturbed retirement, and the hours of long uninterrupted evening, know.”
January is a month for comforts. It’s a month for things that require the oven to be on for hours, for wool blankets and thick socks, for good books. It’s a month, let’s face it, when things can grow a little dreary, a little desolate – what with the bitter cold days stretching endlessly ahead and the cheer of holidays behind.
But January can be a lovely month if we can just remember all the things there are to look forward to in its dark nights and cold blustery days. There are mittens and warm coats to bundle in; starlit walks to be taken with smokey breath and the moonlight reflecting off the snow. There is the sour-sweet bite of grapefruits and blood oranges and Meyer lemons to be tasted. There are stews to simmer, and trays of root vegetables and squash to be roasted; pots of chai to simmer on the stove. There are loaves of dark bread to be risen and cups of coffee, black as tar, to be drunk in the dark hours before sunrise. There is so much to look forward to, in fact, that I find myself (almost) wishing that January were just a tad bit longer, so that I might fit every thing in.
One of my biggest comforts this month, is the ritual of roasting vegetables. It’s a labor of love – the tenaciousness of thick-skinned squash and knobbly roots begs one to pay attention. Then the methodic chop-chop-chop, putting one into a most thoughtful trance where the most wonderful of thoughts might arise. There are beet stained fingers smeared with salt and olive oil to lick, and then there is the hum of a hot oven, the sensation of warmth, the smell of caramelizing sugar melding with the perfume of fresh herbs and warm spices. I like to roast my vegetables in big wedges coated liberally with fat flakes of salt, and then sit at the table with friends and dip them into something deeply savory while we chat about life.
A day like this is the best kind of day, the kind that makes January’s chill just a tiny bit easier to bear.
Roasted Carrots and Beets with Tahini-Miso Dip
- 3-4 medium sized carrots (or 6 smaller ones), chopped lengthwise into fat wedges
- 2 large or 3 medium sized beets, skins on, chopped into wedges about 1/2 inch thick
- 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Salt, pepper and ground cumin seed
For the Tahini-Miso Dip
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons barley (or another dark) miso
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3-4 tablespoons of fresh parsley
- 1/3 cup water
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Place your carrots in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, a teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of cumin and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Toss until well coated, and then place on a parchment lined baking tray. Repeat for the beets (you want to do them separately otherwise the beets will bleed and turn your carrots red – if you don’t mind this, though, you could do them together).
Place the trays in the oven, and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the roots are tender and beginning to blacken in spots.
While your vegetables are roasting, make your dip. Place all the ingredients, except for the water, into a food processor or blender and blend. While the machine is running, slowly trickle in your water while keeping an eye on the consistency. When the dip is the consistency you like (I shoot for hummus consistency, but you might like yours a little thinner), then turn of the machine.
Serve your roasted roots right out of the oven along with the dip, a few people you like to share them with, and a glass of dark toasty stout to wash them down with.