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Warm and Wonderful Comfort Foods

The weather is cooler and the produce department is abounding with notably nostalgic comfort foods ready for roasting. Looking around, I found Melissa’s organic Russet potatoes for baking; gold and red potatoes for roasting with rosemary; winter squash for soups or baked with butter and herbs; broccoli for steaming, stir-fries, and salads; and of course, garlic— which when roasted can fill a home with savory scents that brings the whole family into the kitchen. Is there anything more enticing than the smell of garlic? Even grapes at the end of their season and full of sugar can be used in many fall comfort dishes.

Image of Roasted Potatoes

I’m ready to start the ‘comfort food season’ with fresh produce and have been thinking about doing some different things to change up my autumn cooking routine.

Have you ever roasted grapes? No? Me either, until recently.

Last week I got ready to have some fun in the kitchen and was delighted with the results. Here are a few of the recipes I enjoyed.

I started with roasting Melissa’s organic broccoli. It is easy, and you’ll love the rich flavor of this cooking method.

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

Toss 3 pounds of broccoli (separated into florets) with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the broccoli on a coated cookie sheet and roast for 35 minutes or until it just starts to turn brown. Check your broccoli about 20 minutes into the cooking cycle and turn for even cooking. The florets will easily fall off the stalks and be ready to use in numerous ways. The first thing that comes to mind is adding them to a big-ol’-pile of mashed potatoes. It tastes great and looks like green trees dotting a potato mountain for the kids. Or how about roasted broccoli as a topping to some pasta with some diced late-season organic Roma tomatoes, olive oil and pecorino cheese? Hmmm, hmmm!

It would even be good as a salad ingredient for lunch the next day with sliced red onion, roasted potatoes and a light vinaigrette dressing.

Next were the grapes.

Preheat your oven to 375ºF.

Place washed Melissa’s red seedless grapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 20 minutes until the grapes have shriveled. Make sure you turn them in at the 10-minute mark. Once they are done, put them in a bowl to cool.

I like to think of these as sort of like a fresh raisin but with better texture and a more unique flavor. These are perfect on a Melissa’s spinach or arugula salad with fresh feta or goat cheese for supper or oatmeal with honey and cinnamon in the morning for breakfast. Warm, sweet and filling! Once you try them, you’ll come up with some great ideas of your own.

Since the oven is on, you might as well keep the roasting party going, right? So, I tried roasting shallots instead of my usual garlic. If you have never used shallots, they look like a small, elongated onion with copper-red skin. Think brown garlic clove. This small onion has a mild garlic flavor, which makes them perfect for many recipes. When choosing shallots, they should be firm and heavy for their size, with no soft spots. Never buy sprouting shallots because, like onions, this indicates a bulb past its prime. Another important shallot tip is; the smaller the shallot, the milder the taste.

So now for the roasting ...

You can leave the oven at 375°F— the same temperature as the grapes. Put 6 whole shallots on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 20 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and place in a bowl to cool for 10 minutes. Once cool, you can snip the ends off the shallots and squeeze out the pulp into a small pan of butter and use instead of garlic as a new substitute for garlic bread. Or use the shallot pulp mixed with oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper pulsed in a blender until smooth and use this as a wonderful salad dressing. Or you may want to mix a bit of roasted pulp into those roasted broccoli and mashed potatoes I mentioned before.

These simple recipes are sure to delight the senses, warming your home with the smells and tastes of fall abundance. I think October should be national comfort food month and Melissa’s is here to make our comfort foods even more delicious, nutritious and seasonally savory.

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