Last week, I posted a simple, meatless recipe for Petite Red Lentil Risotto. Today, I want to share not a recipe, really, but a method of cooking vegetables.
Roasting veggies (as opposed to steaming or sautéing) is a fabulous way to deepen and intensify their flavors. I tend to roast two or three pansful of veggies at a time, because I want leftovers--they make putting together your next meal so easy.
To roast veggies successfully, here are a few guidelines:
1) Cut everything up roughly the same size so things cook at the same rate.
2) Roast like with like: Harder veggies, like carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, and russet potatoes, roast well together:
3) Softer veggies (like eggplant, mushrooms, summer squashes) and those with thin "walls" (like bell peppers and onions) also roast at about the same time:
4) Before roasting, place each batch of cut-up vegetables into a large bowl, and toss them with a drizzle of olive oil (so they're glistening but not drowning), some freshly ground black pepper, and some coarse salt. (Although some people add chopped herbs at this point, I find the tender herbs burn and blacken too much, so I like adding them either at the very end of the roast, or scattering the herbs, uncooked, over the veggies right before serving.)
5) Use jellyroll pans (the kind with a lip) instead of cookie sheets (no lip) to roast veggies so they don't roll off the sheets if you want to stir them halfway through the cooking time.
6) Don't crowd the veggies, or they will steam instead of roast. The pieces shouldn't touch. If you can't leave some space around each piece, then do another batch. Use parchment paper (if you want) to make cleanup easier.
7) Keep an eye on the veggies. Harder veggies, roasted at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, might take 15-20 minutes (depending on their size). Softer veggies roasted at the same temperature might be done in half that time.
8) If it looks like the veggies are cooking unevenly, remove them from the oven and give them a stir, then pop them back in.
Here's a batch of roasted veggies I made for dinner last night:
I served them hot over cooked kasha (buckwheat groats) and dusted them with some microplaned Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a sprinkling of fresh, chopped herbs from my garden:
Other ideas for roasted veggies:
1. Serve them over any other cooked grain or tossed into various pastas (they do well with the sturdier pastas, like penne, rigatoni, elbows, shells, etc.). For additional flavor, try adding some pasta sauce or a something with heat, like Sriracha sauce.
2. Chop them up finer and add them to a cheese omelette, or to a simple stock for a delicious soup.
3. Chop them finer still for a vegetarian taco (add salsa, grated cheese, avocado slices, shredded lettuce, etc.) or to top a plain cheese pizza (to avoid overcooking the veggies, heat them in the microwave and scatter them on the pizza when it comes out of the oven).
4. Buzz them in a blender or food processor with some hot stock for a pureé.
Have fun experimenting, and happy roasting!