I, for one, felt the need to lay off the holiday stuffing of myself for a while. This does not mean that I am willing to give up food that is good for me, looks better than good enough to eat, and that has a few little indulgences thrown in for good measure. Here we have a big variety of winter vegetables that have been either steamed or roasted (and in some cases both), then heaped up on a platter and topped with plenty of sweet & salty candied walnuts. The whole works is then drizzled generously with a glaze made with butter, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. This is coincidentally the same mixture that is used to candy the walnuts, so we happily cut down on some effort there. The result: a beautiful, healthy, and just a tad bit sinful way to jump on the new year. And before you say anything – yes, I have gone overboard with the variety of vegetables here and don’t expect many people in their right mind to do the same, but this can give you many options to think about. How about choosing just one, maybe two, or maybe even three? The variety of tastes and colors can do nothing but make your day a happier, and healthier one. You can think about it this way…the more vegetables you use, the more candied walnuts and buttery glaze you get…I like to operate under those types of principles.
We begin with the vegetables. Take your pick, and steam or roast to your heart’s content. The recipe below will fill you in on how I approach each type of vegetable shown in the photos, but really – do what you like best. As you can see, I’ve gone a little berserk with so many varieties, but feel free to only use one or two if that works best. For what it’s worth, some of the things I think about when deciding cooking method is: what is going to give me the best color, the best volume (some vegetables shrink to almost nothing once you roast them which I find a waste of time and money), and last but not least, what tastes best. Not to get t0o deep into the topic, but sometimes I steam first and roast later. Carrots are my favorite example because just roasted they seem to shrink up and don’t seem all that appetizing, but if you steam then roast, they stay super sweet, bright orange, and have just a tiny bit of dark char on some of the edges. Here are the vegetables in all their glory, just waiting for the walnut and glaze delivery.
Let’s start with the candied walnuts. This isn’t your typical hard candy type of approach you’ll find in many candied nut recipes. In fact, the recipe for the nuts and the glaze is the same, and the ‘candy’ on the walnuts will stay pretty soft. This is a win-win as far as I’m concerned. Less work and flavors that aren’t going to argue with each other. The glaze couldn’t be much easier: just melt some butter, add some pure maple syrup, then some balsamic vinegar of your choice. I used a blackberry balsamic for this, but use what you might have on hand. The small trick with the walnuts is to be sure and lightly salt the nuts after tossing in the glaze. You will be amazed at the difference in flavor that makes, and takes it from sweet to salty sweet in 5 seconds.
The glaze is the final step, and it goes on right before serving. The recipe makes more than enough which I find to be necessary since most people will probably be asking for more. It’s always good to be prepared, as the saying goes. And if nobody wants more on their vegetables, it will be pretty good added to a stir fry, drizzled on rice, or maybe even you’ll want to give it a try on ice cream or yogurt.
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year to you all! Thanks so much for reading today – it means a lot. xoxoxoxox
- FOR THE VEGETABLES (Choose as many or as few varieties as you like)
- Radishes, washed with a little bit of green stem left, then cut in half
- Red, Yellow, or Orange Peppers, washed, sliced into about ⅓-inch strips
- Carrots, washed, peeled and cut into whatever shape you like (I cut each carrot into about three pieces, then sliced each of those pieces into about 6 strips)
- Turnips, washed, peeled, and cut into about ½ inch small squares
- Asparagus, washed with about bottom 3 inches removed from the stalk
- Parsnips (not shown in the photos of this recipe, but they are really good!) Treat the same way as you do carrots
- Romanesco (this is the stuff that looks like extraterrestrial green cauliflower), wash, remove the core, and cut the florets out. Decide if you’d like to cut the florets in half or leave them whole. I usually cut the bigger ones in half and leave the smaller ones whole.
- FOR THE GLAZE ON THE VEGETABLES AND THE WALNUTS
- Note: The amounts will vary, depending on how many vegetables you use. Remember, this sauce is also used to glaze the walnuts, so you’ll need extra for that. The following amounts should give you enough for the amount of walnuts listed plus plenty of vegetables too. Plenty means about 6 cups or so of vegetables.
- ½ cup butter
- 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used a blackberry balsamic but choose what you like best).
- Salt to taste
- 3 cups walnut halves
- FOR THE VEGETABLES
- Here are the vegetables I like to roast: Radishes (no, I’m not kidding and they are delicious), peppers, turnips, and asparagus. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Lay the vegetables in a single layer on the sheet, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until just tender. Every oven is different, so start checking at about 15 minutes and pull them out when a sharp paring knife goes in easily. Depending on the denseness of the vegetable, some take longer than others. You’ll figure it out. It’s best to roast those with similar densities together so you don’t end up trying to pull some out and leave others until they are done – that is a giant pain. For example, I roast radishes and peppers together on the same sheet, and turnips can work too if they are cut small enough.
- Here are the vegetables I like to steam: Do you have a steamer? It’s a good idea to get one if you don’t. Steamed vegetables are a ton healthier than boiled because they retain so many more nutrients. Also, they retain a beautiful color which makes them not only taste better but look better too. Look for a decent one that’s easy to use – OXO makes a good one. If you want to go all out, you can buy an actual large pot with a steamer basket insert. This would be the steamer of your dreams if I dare say. I have one and use it nearly every single day. But if you don’t have the inclination at this point, no worries. A separate steamer insert will work just fine. Anyhow, here are the vegetables I like to steam:
- Carrots, Romanesco (add cauliflower and broccoli to that list), and parsnips. Truth be told, I often will steam these guys and then throw them in the oven at 350 to roast until they start to brown on the edges. Spray with a little oil and add salt and pepper first.
- FOR THE SAUCE
- In a medium sized pan, melt the butter. Add the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar, and heat on medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. DO NOT WALK AWAY – this stuff has a tendency to boil over. Allow to boil for one minute and remove from heat. Your concoction will have thickened and be just the right consistency for a sauce.
- FOR THE WALNUTS
- Lay the walnuts out of a baking sheet lined with foil and liberally sprayed with cooking spray. Roast them at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until they start to darken and you can smell them – yum.
- Remove from oven and drizzle on about half of the sauce mixture. Stir it all around so each walnut is covered. Try not to overdo it because this is not a hard candied glaze and you don’t want to end up with a bunch of gloppy walnuts (although they do taste delicious so go for it if you want). LIGHTLY SPRINKLE WITH SALT – This is important because they need that extra kick of salt to bring out their flavor, otherwise they might seem a little flat tasting. Let them ‘set up’ at room temperature. You can also pop them in the refrigerator which will speed up the process.
- TO ASSEMBLE
- Arrange your hot vegetables on a platter or in a baking dish, and top with as many of the walnuts as you like. The recipe actually gives you a lot more than you’ll probably need. This is because if you are like me, they will disappear quickly on salads, for snacks, or for seconds on vegetables.
- Drizzle with remaining sauce and serve.