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Adventures in Produce

Have you ever been excited by Brussels sprouts? Then you haven’t hung out with produce expert, Dan Avakian at his open-air market in the East Bay across from San Francisco. My photographer and I were just there for our monthly photo shoot for Dan’s Beyond Wonderful column.

Dan stocks a wide selection of produce that he regularly picks up from local farms. I’m spoiled with fruits and vegetables picked at their peak when flavor and nutrition is best. This month, it’s all about winter fruits and vegetables—dates, chestnuts, blood oranges, tangerines, persimmons, root vegetables and Brussels sprouts.

Locals, restaurateurs and chefs regularly shop here and are always greeted by this imposing man with a friendly, “Hi, how ya doing?” All are comfortable asking him questions, which he answers easily. I was happy to run into Guido Ferro, our International Home Chef, Italy, who lives close by and was doing his weekend shopping.

I’m roasting everything theses days and wanted to try Brussels sprouts, but was quickly set straight by my two friends. Dan armed himself with large stalk of fresh Brussels sprouts, swung high and yelled, “Aaargh! Don’t roast them.” Guido agreed. Both insisted that I blanch them in hot, salted water for a minute or two, then put them in a very hot skillet, toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper and just a smidge of balsamic vinegar—not too much. They said I could add a little water if things get too dry. Dan likes them halved and blackened, while Guido cooks them whole until crisp.

I bought the Brussels sprouts, along with a basket full of roasting-friendly root vegetables like purple potatoes, red and gold beets, yams, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, fennel, onions and lots of garlic. These are a cinch to prepare and fill the house with an incredibly delicious aroma. They are great with roasted meats, eaten by themselves or pureed into wonderful hot winter soups. Enjoy!

Barbara’s Lazy Day Roasted Root Veggies

Preheat your oven to 450-degrees.

  1. Peel the vegetables of your choice and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Sprinkle with olive oil salt, and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
  3. Arrange the vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer, so that they don’t touch. Add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or a generous sprinkling of the dried herb.
  4. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Stir and continue roasting for 10 minutes more, or until tender.