It has turned cold and wintry here this week. The wind is whipping the leaves off the trees, and when I walked my dog this morning, I had to break out my hat and gloves. I expect we’ll have a few more days of this and then we’ll get our Indian summer, which is the bonus we get for living in North Carolina. Until then, though, we’ll warm our tummies with roasted vegetables.
Roasting is a great method because it is low in fat but high in flavor. The sugars in the food caramelize, turning vegetables into candy. I like to use this method for two kinds of vegetables: those with a lot of water, as the dry heat draws out the moisture and intensifies the flavor; and firm vegetables, which become sweet and tender after a slow roasting. In the first category are asparagus, eggplant, mushrooms, summer squash and zucchini. In the second are carrots, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
Recently, at the exhortation of Cook’s Illustrated, I tried roasting green beans. They came out shriveled and ugly, but they tasted so sweet. We gobbled them right up. This only goes to show that every now and then you’ve got to try an old method on a new ingredient and see what happens.
Here’s the standard guide for roasting vegetables:
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
- Cut your vegetables into fairly large pieces, cubes or chunks or thick slices
- Toss the vegetables with a little oil
- Spread the vegetables out on a baking sheet (covered with aluminum foil for easier clean-up) and put them in the oven
- About halfway through the cooking time, shake the pan to redistribute the food or turn each piece over, if you’re the patient sort
- They’re done when they are browned and tender
This is a good time to add seasoning or herbs, which may burn if added at the beginning of the cooking time.
The only variation to this method is the time each kind of vegetable needs to roast, which is something you learn as you go along. Just keep checking and use your common sense. Firmer vegetables need longer to cook, while thinner vegetables like green beans and asparagus will require only 15 minutes or so. If you’re roasting a lot of vegetables together, which is a very simple and good side dish for any meal, you may have to add them at different times to get them all to come out done together.