This winter has worn heavy. Slowly, the darkest days are getting lighter. The sun spreads across the sky a little earlier each morning. If it’s not raining too hard, I hear the birds finding their songs for the season. The other day, I caught a glimpse of a fat squirrel tipping off a skinny branch.
Spring is coming. But it is arriving at a snail’s pace, and I am growing more impatient every day. Yearning for long walks through the city, along Alki Beach, or weaving my way through Discovery Park. Toes sinking into the sands of Lake Washington. Watching the sun set, sending the most brilliant gradients of color streaking across the sky over Golden Gardens Park in Ballard. I am ready for summer in Seattle.
I am longing, too, for the farmer’s market. Exploring (and tasting) the bounty of summer. We are entering the spring hunger stretch — the last of winter’s reserves are wearing thin, but the precious first shoots of spring haven’t fully arrived yet. In the depths of winter, I’ve ventured to a few farmer’s markets, nimbly picking out potatoes or nearly frozen solid Brussels sprouts with nearly frozen solid finger tips. I tried the most delicious gluten-free biscuit smothered in creamy, whipped butter and local honey. I discovered the expansive, explosive flavor of different garlic varieties and took home the most adorable little butternut squash. But I am longing now for the fresh and vibrant flavors of spring and summer.
I have gotten to know the depth of this new land I call home through the local markets. Connecting myself to the amazing flavors of this city and the incredible, diverse agriculture that the landscape here provides. I am aching to know more.
A Fran Lebowitz quote stuck in my head as I was making this recipe.
Vegetables are interesting, but lack a sense of purpose when unaccompanied by a good cut of meat.
Growing up in the Midwest, meat was always a main. Dramatic and primal, it was (usually) the star of the show. To this day, I am often overcome by the simplest, strongest craving for a good steak and some kind of potato.
Vegetables aren’t often as commanding. Where meat makes the meal, vegetables provide a strong support. (Because without them, we’d all be left with hot ham water like Lyndsay proudly prepared on Arrested Development.)
I think that a dish like this begs to differ. Delicious as the centerpiece, it can also be cast in a supporting role served alongside pork tenderloin or a roast chicken. But certainly, these vegetables do not need meat to fulfill their purpose.
This dish is delightfully versatile. The first time I tested the recipe, I scooped up as many vegetables from the farmer’s market as I could. The basics — onion, garlic, carrot, butternut squash — and more intriguing, flavorful veggies too — celeriac, sunchokes, a bright red beet. The beet was a beautiful nightmare. When I first teased this recipe on Instagram, I loved how the beet made the crumble look like one filled with fruit, not vegetables. But that color leeched everywhere, on to everything. I had to saute the beet separately, and gently scatter the pieces without mixing too much, lest all the other vegetables turn pink. I loved the flavor, but the work was too much.
The second time I made this recipe, I played more with flavors and textures. I love that the earthiness of sunchokes remains. The flavor of the celeriac faded too much, so I replaced it with a parsnip. I added fennel for a bit of a bite and a different texture.
That’s the beauty, truly, of this meal. The veggies are the star of the show, but they’re whatever vegetables you have on hand. Whatever vegetables that you love, that are in season, that look best at the market. Take those vegetables longing for a purpose and let their flavors meld together with fresh herbs, simmer with a splash of tart cider and top with a nutty, buttery, crunchy crumble topping and you have a delicious, savory, satisfying meal. You won’t miss the meat, I promise.
We are languishing in that moment in between seasons. We’re still getting blasts of snow (which is odd in the PNW this time of year) and frigid cold, but mostly the weather is hovering where it’s just a little too cold and always too wet. This is the kind of meal I crave when the day is dark and gray and dreary — warm and hearty, stick-to-your-ribs without weighing you down. Some bright, sunshiny colors to cheer you up. Soul food. Nurture food. (It helps, really, that this is delicious and your house will smell amazing when you’re done cooking.)
Give your vegetables a sense of purpose. You’ll be glad you did.
The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. “I am not alone and unacknowledged.” They nod to me and I to them.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
- Anthem Pear Cider
- Butternut Squash
Gluten-Free Savory Vegetable Crumble with Hazelnuts
For the crumble topping:
½ cup gluten-free flour
½ cup toasted breadcrumbs
1 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
1 tablespoon loosely packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
For the veggie filling:
1 medium onion, diced
1 large parsnip, peeled & diced
1 cup peeled & diced sunchokes (or potato)
2 heaping cups peeled & diced butternut squash
1½ cups baby bella or shiitake mushrooms, woody stems removed & quartered
1 small bulb of fennel, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, minced (I used sage, rosemary & thyme)
1 cup hard cider (or vegetable/chicken broth)
½ cup vegetable/chicken broth
½ cup yogurt
2 tablespoons gluten-free flour
1 tablespoon brown sugar
For the simple yogurt sauce:
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup (loosely packed) chopped parsley
½ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Make the crumble topping:
Mix all of the dry ingredients together. Melt the butter and set aside to cool, but do not mix with the dry ingredients yet.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare the veggies:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a swirl of olive oil and a pat of butter.(Optional, but I like the flavor. Give me all the butter.) When the oil/butter is hot, add the diced onion, parsnip, sunchokes and butternut squash. Saute, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften. Let the vegetables start to caramelize; if they burn or caramelize too quickly, however, lower the heat slightly. Add the mushrooms and fennel. Stir to incorporate. Season everything in the pan with a pinch of salt and pepper, and let cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cider. Scrape up any brown bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let the veggies simmer with the cider until the liquid is mostly reduced. Sprinkle the flour and brown sugar over the veggies and stir to incorporate. Add the stock and the herbs. Simmer gently until the mix thickens slightly. Remove the skillet from the heat.
If you want, you can leave the veggie mixture in the skillet or transfer to a pie dish. (That’s what I did.)
Finish the crumble:
Mix the melted butter with the dry crumble ingredients until everything is fully incorporated and crumbly. Using your fingers or a spoon, evenly distribute the crumble topping over the vegetables in your skillet or pie dish.
Bake the crumble for 20-25 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.
Let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Make the yogurt sauce:
While the crumble is cooling, combine all of the yogurt sauce ingredients together in a small serving bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if necessary.
Serve the crumble with a dollop of yogurt and a bright green salad. (I used a creamy balsamic vinaigrette. I highly recommend this flavor combination. It. Is. Bomb.)
Go ahead, have a second helping. (I won’t tell.)