Take the humble parsnip. Take an acorn squash, a delicata maybe, an orange winter squash on the smaller side. Now, to the chopping block. I'm not going to sugarcoat this: cutting up winter squash is no fun, no fun at all. But eating sticky, caramelized wintery vegetables richly spiced with ras-el-hanout? Worth it.
Maple syrup is a natural accompaniment to winter tubers and squashes. Ras-el-hanout, a north African "top-of-the-shop" spice blend, is a little bit out of the box, but walk with me. Ras-el-hanout, though it's by definition idiosyncratic blend, invariably features warming, sweet spices like cinnamon, cardamom, sometimes allspice and mace, ginger or saffron, along with savory spices like pepper and turmeric. This makes it the perfect buddy for savory-sweets like orange squash. I wrote about ras el-hanout and where to find it here, and I've included a quick-mix substitution in the recipe below, if you want to try it out without committing to a whole spice bottle.
If you're underwhelmed by parnsips, I hear you. If you've only ever had them as a byproduct of soup-making, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Parsnips are unbelievably good mashed, and they're equally good roasted. They become a whole new vegetable, sugary and toothsome. Next to the squash, they're a nice taste and texture contrast and work well with the maple and spices.
Preparing the vegetables
For the pasnips, I recommend using larger ones--you can see the relative size of my parsnip in comparison to my regular-sized acorn squash in the top left photo above. Parsnips are fairly hardy and take a longer time to cook than do the carrots they resemble, but smaller parsnips may need less time then does the squash. I used just one large parsnip and cut it into medium-thick matchsticks: peel, slice in half, then slice each half into three matchsticks. For the thicker pieces from the top of the parsnip, I cut these in half again.
As for the squash, since we're using acorn or delicata, there's no need to peel. Cut the squash in half with a large chef's knife and use a grapefruit spoon or knife to remove the seeds--a regular spoon also works. (A grapefruit utensil sounds kind of random, I realize, but I use mine all the time, to the point that I have both a meat one and a dairy one. I got both of them at the supermarket. You know those random things they have hanging from a shelf near the breakfast cereal? Like, there.)
Once the vegetables are prepared, arrange them in a single layer on a lined sheet pan and drizzle them with the olive oil, maple syrup, salt, and ras-el-hanout. No need to toss; halfway through, turn over the vegetables with tongs and they'll soak up the good stuff on both sides. That's it, forty minutes or so in a moderately hot oven and you've got a new spin on roasted winter vegetables.
Looking for more new ideas for vegetables?
- Balsamic Honey Roased Cabbage Wedges with Paprika
- Tel Aviv Roots Bowl - a whole meal featuring sunchokes, sweet potatoes, and other root veg in a grain bowl with tahini and silan drizzle
- Cauliflower with Green Tahini - an irresistible Israeli classic, good cold or warm
Maple Roasted Parsnips and Winter Squash with Ras-el-Hanout (parve)
- 1 large parsnip - or 2 medium; don't use small ones
- 1 medium acorn or delicata squash
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1-2 tsp salt - to taste (but don't under-salt!)
- 1½ tsp ras-el-hanout
Quick-mix ras el-hanout belnd:
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp white or black pepper
- ¼ tsp ginger
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp cardamom
- ⅛ tsp allspice
- ⅛ tsp nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp cloves
- Preheat the oven to 385°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Peel the parsnips and cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half into three segments, and, if large, in half again, to yield relatively thick matchsticks.
- Peel your squash, if desired, and slice in half. Remove the seeds, then cut into slices about ¾" thick.
- Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and maple syrup. Season with salt and ras el-hanout.
- Roast in the oven for forty minutes, using tongs to gently flip the vegetables halfway through cooking time.