I have a bit of a problem: I’m into flings. Hot and heavy flings. Pantry flings. Short-lived and lusty relationships with spices, in particular.
The beginning of the year was smoked paprika. Then came curry powder. Nutmeg was not far behind. Oh, and rosemary? We’re casual now. Cinnamon and I are the best of friends (100% platonic). But lately, I’ve devoted my whole heart to saffron. The aroma and flavour from just a pinch of those lava-toned threads makes me break out into song. I’m just mad about saffron.
This fling scares me more than any other because saffron does not come cheap. However, a little bit goes a very long way. It’s easy to overdo saffron; be judicious with it or you’ll be left eating flower-flavoured turnips, beets, and sweets––not what you want. With just a pinch, you can turn humble root vegetables into a decadent feast.
Root vegetables are at their peak right now, and while they need little help to make their sweetness shine through, marinating and roasting them in a saffron orange dressing makes them positively sparkle. And I think turnips are a highly under-appreciated vegetable that you need to get on right this second. After peeling their purple skin, you expose an ivory interior that has the sharp fragrance of wasabi––but don’t be afraid––once you roast those mustardy sugar cubes, they turn into vegetable buttah. The roasted turnips melt in you mouth, infused with the fruity olive oil, saffron, and orange dressing. Highly moreish.
Do you want to gild the lily? I personally believe that saffron requires a little lily-gilding, which is why I’ve topped this buttery vegetable confetti with pine nuts. If you want to get extra black-tie-required, some golden raisins plumped in a little orange juice, and a scattering of cilantro would be delicious. If you’re an expert at toasting pine nuts, which I am not, by all means, give them a sun tan (but I ruined three batches of pine nuts before deciding to keep them raw).
Put on your finest dress or suit (or track pants), grab a fork, and dive in. Vegetables want their time to shine on the centre of the plate. Gild that lily and make these tonight.
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch, saffron threads (heaping ¼ tsp)
- 2 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- Ground pepper, to taste
- 1.5 lbs (about 3) turnips, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1.5 lbs (about 6) beets, cut into ½-inch cubes
- .5 lbs (1 large) sweet potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
- Pine nuts, to serve
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Make the Marinade: Shake all marinade ingredients together in a jar or whisk in a bowl.
- Make the Vegetables: On a large rimmed baking sheet, separate vegetables into 3 columns (so the beets don't bleed––optional). Toss vegetables with marinade and allow to sit for 30 minutes before roasting for 45 minutes, until meltingly tender. If you've separated them, toss to combine.
- Garnish with pine nuts.