The grocery store doesn’t allow us to appreciate this variation. Everything needs to be the same size and weight for consistency when pricing.
When you grow vegetables or buy them from a small farm, you inevitably end up with an assortment of items that don’t fit into the boundaries of a regular recipe.
Last week, I passed out one rutabaga for each member of our farm. Some of the rutabagas were close to harvest, and we needed to thin the planting. I knew I needed to supply a recipe assisting our members in using this solitary root.
The easiest way is to include it with other vegetables with similar textures and cook them together. So I suggested a mixed roasted vegetable recipe.
Combining items accomplishes multiple goals. It introduces a vegetable we don’t see every day, the rutabaga, to eaters that might be skeptical. And it allows the cook to incorporate it into a bigger meal plan and gives them recipe techniques for when they encounter more.
Why roasted vegetables are so good
Roasting does two things to the food. It removes water and browns the vegetables. Together the caramelization and the concentrated flavors sweeten the dish. Intensify
The caramelized layer allows it to retain a firm texture outside and a creamy texture inside. Without the browning, you are not roasting.
Also, roasted vegetables are more tolerant of overcooking, and they can be made ahead and reheated.
Time, Temperature, and Space When Roasting
To make sure browning happens, you need to have space between the vegetables and have high heat.
The space makes sure that the moisture from the cooking vegetables doesn’t get trapped. The heat makes sure that the outside browns before the insides are overcooked.
For smaller cut vegetables, roasting should happen at 400 °F to 450 °F. The temperature difference accounts for oven variation and the vegetables themselves.
You can also affect roasting by adjusting the cooking time. Most bite-sized vegetables will cook n 20–30 minutes. But allow for experimentation and check on your cooking if it’s the first time. If you’re not sure, take a bite and taste.
Roasted Vegetable Recipe
The ultimate trick to roasted vegetables is using parchment paper to line your baking sheet. This makes clean up easy. I rarely wash the pan unless the paper gets ripped.
Roasted Fall Vegetables
- 5–6 cups fall vegetables, diced large, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and rutabagas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- ¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 °F. Toss the diced vegetables with the oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes, until tender. In the oven, while cooking the squash, toast the nuts until fragrant, about 5 minutes, remove and set aside. After removing the roasted vegetables from the oven, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and vinegar, season with salt and pepper, if needed. Toss gently and transfer to a serving platter or bowl. Top with the goat cheese if desired.
Carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, winter squash. All of these have a firm texture and natural sugar that is enhanced when roasted.
Broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and brussels sprouts have natural bitterness that is complemented by the bitterness from the browning. Beware of overcooking cruciferous vegetables. This effect generates the rotten egg smell by releasing the sulfur compounds.
You can roast almost any vegetable. Just adjust the cooking time and temperature.
Enhance your roasted vegetables with these sauces.
The best part of roasting vegetables is that they cook themselves in the oven. This gives you time to work on other components. I like to make a simple sauce to drizzle on top or serve on the side.
Here are some starting ideas. The major theme is to have a fat, an acid, and aromatics.
Drizzle the finished vegetables with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Add Parmesan, feta, or goat cheese after cooking if desired.
Combine a tablespoon or two of tahini or almond butter with lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and your favorite hot sauce. The almond butter is not tahini, of course, but it makes a suitable substitution.
Garlic Herb Sauce
Add chopped fresh parsley, oregano, or rosemary with minced garlic, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle the sauce over the vegetables when they come out of the oven to allow the heat to release the herbs’ aroma.
Mix up your roasted vegetables.
Don’t be afraid to create your own flavor combinations.
Remember to make sure to allow a small space between vegetables so that they don’t trap moisture when cooking. Use high heat and adjust the time to make sure the vegetables are browned and cooked through.
Julie Moreno is a chef and writer, now trying to get more people to cook their own food and understand where it comes from. She lives in the middle of California, where she’s learning to landscape with fruits and vegetables. Find her on her blog Food Demystified, Twitter @juliehouse, and Facebook @fooddemystified