Tired of doing your veggies the same old way? Try roasting them; it’s a technique that works well for a variety of vegetables, and fruits as well. Simply put, roasting involves cooking your veggies in the dry heat of a hot oven, thereby evaporating much of the veggies’ water, concentrating their flavor and increasing their sweetness. Even on warm summer days, you’ll find me roasting vegetables because there’s no better way to intensify the flavor of watery veggies such as corn, onions, summer squash, mushrooms, tomatoes and bell peppers. Cut in larger pieces and flavored lightly with herbs, garlic or balsamic vinegar (for example), roasted veggies can be a smart dish on their own. Chopped smaller, they become a great addition to pasta sauces, grain or pasta salads and soup. Here’s my five-step guide to roasting vegetables and fruits…
FIVE STEPS TO GREAT ROASTED VEGETABLES (OR FRUITS)
1. Preheat your oven to 400º F (if doing potatoes or root vegetables you can go as high as 425ºF).
2. Line a baking sheet pan with parchment paper (using parchment paper makes the clean-up vastly easier).
3. Wash and cut your veggie to appropriate sizes. Dense, firm vegetables such as carrots you may want to dice small or slice thinly so they will roast evenly along with lighter vegetables such as zucchini or bell peppers which can be chopped in somewhat bigger pieces. If roasting several vegetables in one pan, put each in it’s own area, that way you can remove the quicker cooking veggies from the pan first and allow the remaining veggies to continue roasting.
4. Toss your vegetables in a bowl with enough olive oil to lightly coat them, add a little salt and pepper. While that’s all you really need, chopped garlic, herbs, balsamic vinegar, mirin or other seasonings can be welcome additions.
5. Spread the veggies evenly on a baking pan, preferably in one layer, place in the oven and roast 30 minutes to one hour. Start checking after 20 minutes. Shake the pan or stir a little to assure even cooking. If some of the vegetables, such as carrots, seem to be drying out and not getting tender, add a few tablespoons of water to guarantee that they will be properly cooked. When the veggies are tender to the touch and golden and caramelized on the bottom surface, they are done.
MY FAVORITE VEGETABLES AND FRUITS FOR ROASTING:
Mushrooms–even ordinary supermarket mushrooms taste like something when roasted.
Cauliflower–loses it cabbagy edge and becomes sweet and nutlike. If you think you don’t like cauliflower, try it roasted it–a revelation.
Leeks–become sweet in the middle, crunchy along the edges.
Corn–either on the cob or cut off, corn becomes so much more interesting.
Cherry tomatoes–any tomatoes really, average tomatoes acquire flavor. Roast a few cups of cherry tomatoes until soft along with a little garlic and oregano–instant fresh tomato sauce.
Red potatoes–thinly slice, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped onion, garlic and rosemary. Delicious for breakfast.
Stone fruits–peaches, plums, etc. Cut in half, remove the pit, brush with a little mirin, roast until tender. Fabulous. Also try tropical fruit such as mango, papaya or pineapple. Eat them as is or use in cakes, crisps, bread puddings, etc. Off the hook!