Picnic-Ready Vegetable Caviars

Sidonie Maroon kitchen to kitchen
Posted 5/8/24

Editor’s Note: An incomplete version of this column appeared last week so The Leader is republishing it. 


What’s a vegetable caviar?

A delicious roasted …

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Picnic-Ready Vegetable Caviars


Editor’s Note: An incomplete version of this column appeared last week so The Leader is republishing it. 


What’s a vegetable caviar?

A delicious roasted vegetable spread that goes with crackers, bread, or chips.

We think of caviar as a fish roe, but the Russian root for caviar or ikra, as they say, means “to cut,” so it’s a way of preparing a dish. Still, I can’t get away from the jewel-like quality and pop of fish caviar when I imagine vegetable caviar, so I think we should chop them into small colorful pieces.

The Eastern European recipes I’ve come across for vegetable caviars boil the vegetables, and semi mash them into a chunky puree. Perhaps this is because they came into fashion during the Soviet years, which were not culinary enlightened times.


Creative Vegetable Caviars

Use the roots or “fruits” of vegetables to make caviars. Add the leaves of herbs and perhaps use some stems like celery. The vegetable mixtures and flavoring possibilities are endless.


Roast the Vegetables

Instead of boiling, I roast the vegetables, with seasoning and oil, to caramelize, heighten flavor and stress their natural sweetness. My favorite technique for roasting vegetables is to line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and roast at 425 F. for 30 minutes, stir and sometimes go another 15 minutes. With vegetable caviars, I’d go with less time so that they’ll hold their shape.


Pulse together

Pulse the roasted vegetables in a food processor 9 to 10 times or just enough to bring them together. I don’t want a puree, but a chunky spread.


Correct the Seasonings

Include an acid like an apple cider vinegar, balsamic, or lemon juice. Add more sea salt if needed, seasonings, fresh herbs, and sometimes a complimentary dairy like sour cream or cream cheese.


Salt Matters

What kind of salt you use always matters, but especially when we serve food at room temp or cold. Cold foods need more acid, sweet and salt than hot foods, so we can taste them. A good quality sea salt will help. It will have a sweet note and is not acrid or bitter. I like “Real Salt” or “Maldon” sea salt flakes.


Let’s Make Carrot Caviar

Cut 1 pound of carrots into thick rounds. Toss them in 2 tablespoons of neutral tasting oil, sprinkle on 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, and roast them at 425 F on a parchment lined baking sheet for 30 to 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a sauce of 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish sauce, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and a big pinch of caraway seeds (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon). Add the roasted carrots and sauce to a large food processor and pulse until the carrots are a small dice — the size of pickle relish. This will make 2 cups of carrot caviar, which will be excellent on its own or as an addition to an open-faced sandwich.


What to Serve With Vegetable Caviars

For the ultimate picnic, bring an assortment of rye or sourdough breads, crackers, lox, smoked fish, cream cheese, sharp cheeses, butter, sliced roast beef, fresh dill, boiled eggs, ham and pickles, along with one or two of these caviars. I’ve added recipes for three more vegetable caviars on the Food Coop’s Blog “The Beet” for you to enjoy. 


Mushroom Caviar

Makes 2½ cups

12 crimini mushrooms, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced

¼ teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup cream cheese, softened


1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Prep veggies. Grind the pepper.


2. Massage the oil with the pepper and thyme into the veggies. Do not add salt at this point! Roast for 30 minutes. Stir and roast for another 15 minutes.


3. Add the roasted veggies to a food processor, with the salt and vinegar. Pulse eight to ten times, to bring everything together into a chunky spread. Scrape into a bowl and work in cream cheese.


4. Serve on toasts.