Please please, don’t think this means you’ve got to stock the freezer with frozen veggies for the season or goodness forbid head to the canned aisle to get your vitamin A for the winter.
That’s why I’m bringing out the yummy pictures of my you-must-try-this-at-home oven-roasted vegetables. Roasting vegetables is amazingly easy, yet it produces such a sweet and complex result. I don’t know about you, but even as a vegetable-lover, I hate soggy or even just soft vegetables. I mean I’ll shove them under my mashed potatoes in disgust the way I did to chicken a good eighteen years of living at home. Even better than slightly crunching veggies, I especially enjoy vegetables that are shockingly flavorful. It is so simple to create this at home. I mean, really, if you’ve got two hands and an oven you’re all set.
High heat produces a “Maillard reaction” in vegetables–don’t fret fellow vegetarians, this may sound like it involves duck, but I assure you this is not the case. This reaction means that the high heat activates browning, and the natural sugars in your veggies are rising to the surface and caramelizing. Doesn’t that sound so sweet?
Before you start pulling that bag of baby spinach out of the drawer, I must tell you this: roasting works best with low-moisture vegetables: potatoes (any kind), onions, bell peppers, squashes (any kind), broccoli, carrots, shallots, and more. While you’re rooting around the kitchen now, resist dragging out that four-foot long, two-feet deep Thanksgiving roaster. We won’t be needing that for dinner tonight.
I made this the other night. It took about 5 minutes prep time, 20 minutes cooking time, and it was scrumptious.
Here’s what’s happening:
I got out my root vegetables (in this case I found a pre-cut bag of these at Trader Joes containing squash, sweet potato, yams, and turnips—I might have forgotten to tell Andrew about the turnips…) and added a russet potato I had at home and some crucial yellow onion. (I love the new bags you can find even at Giant of pre-cut butternut squash, because it’s a royal pain to peel yourself. Just check out these bags in the store and check the date–often you can find mush inside if it’s not a fresh bag). Oh, and just hold off of thinking you don’t like squash, because you haven’t had it like this. Plus, orange vegetables are soooooooooooo crucial for vitamin A and our regular vegetable intake and, really, are we eating carrot that often?
So I rummaged around the cupboard and got out:
- a big ol’ mixing bowl (bigger the better here, just in case)
- olive oil (remember, Extra-Virgin is not preferable because of it’s low-smoking point) or grapeseed or peanut oil
- salt (sea salt is awesome here, or kosher salt—remember kosher is lowest in sodium, but table salt will do, just watch the amount and add more only if the finished product really needs it)
- a cookie sheet (I have flat nonstick ones which I don’t like because the oil and juices roll off, splattering and smoking in my oven. This is a great use for a jellyroll pan or a cookiesheet with a rim). get two cookie sheets out, just in case
- then I preset my oven to, oh 450 (F) or so. sometimes I crank it even more
If you didn’t get pre-cut veggies, chop your potatoes, etc. into at least 2-in. pieces. Really small chunks will shrivel. Also, I don’t go for scientific accuracy, but somewhat equal sizes are very helpful in equal cooking (a great rule of thumb for all cooking endeavors).
So preheat your oven & throw all your veggies in a bowl (ideas: broccoli is sooooooooooo good; baby carrots save any cutting time–just leave those babies as they are; definately consider an onion because it will be remarkably sweet and just–oh wow, well, it’s just going to floor you with flavor). Pour about one tablespoon oil over everything–you can add more if absolutely needed, but we’ll get to that. Sprinkle about 1 tsp. of salt for a large batch of veggies. Now, I’m dainty by reputation, but you’re really going to want to get your nice clean hands in there to mix things around. You want all of the veggies to be glistening–if some are dry, add more oil and keep mixing around.
Now, please believe me that you want one layer of veggies. If you’ve got to disperse the chunks over two sheets or more, so be it. These little guys need room to do their thing—they don’t need to be spread out, they just can’t be stacked. The pan does not need to be sprayed because they have all this oil on them, I do sometimes like to put aluminum foil beneath for easier clean-up—beware, they do stick sometimes, but that’s the fun of it.
Pop that goodness in the oven, I usually go closer to the top of the oven, placing the rack on the highest setting and putting an additional pan below if needed. In about 10 or so minutes, quickly flip the veggies over (that heat will drop so quickly the moment you open the door) with tongs or a spatula. Again, this doesn’t need to be exact. If you miss a piece, get him on the next round. Do this every 10 or so minutes. If your veggies are not browning after about 15 minutes, turn the oven up 15 degrees (or, you know, wait longer for dinner, your choice). It all depends on the amount of food in the oven, but this should take between 20-40 minutes. Just keep an eye on them (if you have an oven window you’re so lucky). Remember, you want them to be really brown, but black is not typically the ultimate plate-appeal. When all the veggies are clearly soft and brown, take them out. Take a taste (remember yesterday’s discussion?) and add pepper or herbs or a little lemon juice here. Oh, believe me balsamic vinegar is awesome at this point. Just a few drops aren’t too overwhelming.
If you’re making rice or pasta, starting the water once the veggies go in usually allows me to have everything done at once. Basmati rice takes only 20 minutes, and I’ll tell you how to get the perfect fluffy Indian basmati rice some other time. Say, tomorrow.