Hint: In part, the attraction to this style of cooking vegetables is seasonal. It begins in the autumn as the air turns cool and our bodies begin to crave hearty food to sustain us through the long dark winter. It’s perfect for winter, when a kitchen is an oasis of warmth and our bodies demand fresh healthy food.
Give up? It’s roasting vegetables. You’ll never forget again, once you’ve tried roasting vegetables, whether root vegetables like beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnips or others like zucchini, kohlrabi and this time of year, winter squash like butternut and acorn squash.
Truth is, roasting transforms vegetables. If vegetables were to write a love letter, the page would begin, “Dear Oven: How we love thee. You coax the sweetness from our earthly forms, you transform our color into golden bites of caramel.”
The technique is dead simple, requiring just vegetables, oil and seasoning – and heat. Still, a few simple tricks will help. So make this your year to get up close and acquainted with roasting vegetables. Start with a vegetable you already like. If you like, check the roasted vegetable recipes for a recipe to eliminate uncertainty about temperature and timing. Soon enough, you’ll be writing your own love letter.
How to Roast Vegetables - Tips & Techniques & A Master Recipe
ONE AT A TIME Mostly, we roast one vegetable at a time since it’s hard for more than one kind to finish cooking at the same time. Yes, with experience, it’s possible to combine vegetables, cooking a more-starchy vegetable a little longer than a less-starchy vegetable.
OVEN TEMPERATURE for ROASTING We roast vegetables at high temperature, 375 degrees on the low end and 500 degrees on the high end but typically 400F or 425F.
SAME SIZE While the oven preheats, prep the vegetables. Wash and trim the vegetables first, cutting off stems and tails, removing any blemishes, removing skins if appropriate. Then cut the vegetables into pieces roughly the same size. The smaller the pieces, the quicker the vegetables will roast; the larger, the longer.
SHRINKAGE Vegetables shrink when they’re roasted so you may want to allow for that. Here on A Veggie Venture, a pound of vegetables is expected to serve four. If the vegetables are roasted, a pound of vegetables makes four kinda-skimpy servings.
COAT EVENLY with OIL Toss the cut vegetables with olive oil in a bowl, really getting in there with a spatula or even your hands, making sure the pieces are coated on all sides. Save the uber-expensive, extra-virgin oils for salad dressings and drizzles; for roasting, any good quality oil will do. I allow a tablespoon of oil per pound of vegetables, it’s plenty, but some times splurge on a couple of tablespoons. Using more oil will shorten the cooking time and will create coveted crusty edges.
EXPERIMENT Olive oil is the standard, it's easy to grab and reliable. But for flavors, experiment a little. Add a touch of toasted sesame oil. Use peanut oil or safflower oil. Just make sure the oil is fresh, if it tastes musty or stale, choose something else.
SHORTCUT NOT RECOMMENDED Some cooks use dribble oil directly over vegetables already in the baking pan. It works but you use more oil and much of it will be wasted and can burn onto the baking sheet, imparting a bitter burn taste to the vegetables. Besides, there’s something sensual about using your hands to rub oil over raw vegetables!
SEASONING A vegetable’s own natural and unadorned flavor will emerge when seasoned with just salt and pepper. For gentleness, use kosher salt or sea salt; for sharpness, use freshly ground pepper. But experiment with other seasonings too. Carrot is deepened with thyme, zucchini is brightened by lemon. Dried herbs are fine, preferable even.
VEGGIES + FRUIT? Again, play a little, adding in new textures, sweetness, shape, etc. I love to roast butternut squash with apples, either with fruity spices and maple syrup or plain with onion (scroll to the end of the photos for the "recipe").
FIND A BAKING PAN Find a baking pan, preferably one with low sides so the heat can envelop the vegetables from three sides. Metal is best: if you put a cold glass or ceramic dish straight into a hot oven, it can shatter. If you only have glass or ceramic pan, place it in the oven while it preheats so that it warms up slowly.
EASY CLEAN-UP For easy clean-up, line the baking pan with foil or a silicone mat. The sugar in some vegetables will really make a mess of bare pans.
NO CROWDING Arrange the oiled vegetables on the baking sheet, leaving space between the pieces so the oven’s heat can weave its way between.
SET THE CLOCK Roasted vegetables can be done as quickly as 30 minutes but larger and/or denser pieces will take an hour.
CHECK & TOSS About halfway through the roasting time, give the vegetables a quick toss, redistributing the pieces. After that, check and toss every five minutes or so, until they’re done.
GOLDEN DONE The vegetables are done when their centers are soft and creamy, their outside edges almost crisp and beginning to caramelize. Allow from 30 – 90 minutes, depending on the vegetable, how large it’s been cut and the oven temperature.
MASTER RECIPE for ROASTING VEGETABLES
Time to table: 60 minutes
1 pound vegetables
1 tablespoon olive oil (or more, to taste)
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400F. Wash the vegetables well under running water. Trim the vegetables, cutting away stems and roots and any rough edges. If needed, peel. Cut the vegetables into pieces of even size, smaller pieces for faster cooking, larger pieces for longer cooking. As they're cut into pieces, collect in a big bowl. Add the oil and with your hands or a spatula, turn the vegetables several to many times to evenly coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper and turn again.
Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil or line with a silicone mat. Arrange the vegetables in a single even layer, separating the pieces to allow for airflow between.
Place in the oven, even if it's not fully reheated. Roast for 30 - 60 minutes, checking halfway through to toss and check on doneness, after that checking every 5 minutes until done. The vegetables are done when they are cooked through, the centers soft and creamy and the outer edges golden and crispy.
Serve hot as a side dish. Save the leftovers for topping salads and tossing into soups.
SPECIAL ROASTING TECHNIQUES for SPECIFIC VEGETABLES
BEETS My Favorite Way to Roast Beets My favorite way to cook beets to have on hand for making salads and snacking is to roast them in a covered Dutch oven. But to roast and eat right away, just peel the beets and cut into pieces.
BELL PEPPERS How to Roast Peppers To roast a pile of peppers or even a mess of chilis, use the oven.
BROCCOLI Roasted Broccoli with Lemon & Garlic Surprisingly, roasted broccoli isn't that good -- until it's splashed with lemon juice after roasting.
CAULIFLOWER While cauliflower can be roasted just as described on this page (Roasted Cauliflower was A Veggie Venture's very first recipe!) but for a stunning appearance, try Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon Vinaigrette.
DELICATA SQUASH Roasted Delicata Squash A delicata squash needn't be peeled before roasting!
GARLIC How to Roast Garlic For garlic, you roast whole heads, not the individual cloves.
POTATOES How to Roast Potatoes to Perfection It’s possible to just throw chunks of potato in the oven and they’ll be great. But for perfection, an extra step makes all the difference.
TOMATOES Slow-Roasted Tomatoes 200F is the perfect temperature for slow-roasting tomatoes.
WHOLE VEGETABLES How to Roast a Whole Pumpkin and How to Roast a Whole Butternut Squash show how to roast whole vegetables although without the crispy edges and usually for mashing or cooking with.
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MORE FAVORITE VEGETABLES for ROASTING
~ Roasted Cauliflower ~
~ Roasted Kohlrabi ~
~ Roasted Brussels Sprouts ~
~ more roasted vegetable recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple ~
~ Roasted Salmon & Asparagus ~
~ Baked Chicken with Herb-Roasted Potatoes ~
~ more vegetable recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2012