Roasting vegetables enhances the flavor––who doesn’t love those caramelized edges?
I love roasted vegetables, and I love the process of prepping and roasting them. From potatoes to Brussels sprouts, it is hard to think of any vegetable that doesn’t benefit from the added flavor and texture when roasting.
I grew up in a time when vegetables were often cooked to death, and the concept of “crisp tender” did not seem to exist. Vegetables were usually roasted only if they were thrown in a pan along with a roast, often turning to mush in the long cook!
The trick to roasting vegetables is not following a recipe, there really isn’t one, but in perfecting a technique that is all about the timing. All vegetables don’t cook at the same rate, we know this, and even the same vegetable will cook differently depending on how large they are cut. To roast a whole russet potato may take over and hour, but if you cut it into bite-sized chunks, it can be cooked in under 40 minutes.
Preheat your oven. If you have a convection or fan oven, use it for even browning!
Cut your vegetables into uniform size. Place them on a parchment lined, or well oiled, rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Don’t be tempted to use a deep “roasting pan.” This was designed for meat, not veggies and the sides are too high to allow for the best air circulation; you might end up steaming rather than roasting.
After drizzling with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dried herbs if you like, and toss everything around so that they are well coated.
Spread out in a single layer on the sheet; if you pile them up, the vegetables will steam rather than roast and never brown. This is probably the most common mistake made when roasting vegetables, cramming too much on the sheet.
Add any sturdy herbs you like, such as rosemary or bay leaves, or leave them out. These will be turned over along with the vegetables at the half-way point. This is not the place for tender greens such as parsley, they will burn too quickly in the roasting process.
Hard vegetables such as beets may need a slightly lower oven temperature so they will cook all the way through before browning, so keep this in mind when prepping.
If you have both hard and soft vegetables with different cooking times, you can either use two separate sheets, or wait to add the softer vegetables later.
You will need to flip the vegetables half-way through the cooking so they will brown evenly. Set a timer for this, you don’t want to rely on memory! I know I don’t.
Root or hard vegetables – 400 to 425 F.
This includes beets, potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, onions, leeks, whole garlic bulbs, and rutabagas. Also, hard winter squashes such as butternut or acorn, and Brussels sprouts.
The cooking of these depends entirely on how large you cut the pieces, but generally about 35 to 45 minutes at 425.
If you cut them really large, you will want the oven temperature to be a little lower, 400 degrees so they have time to cook through before browning. If I am roasting a butternut squash cut in half to stuff later, I will take about an hour at 400.
Soft vegetables, “fruits” and “flowers” – 425 F.
This list includes fruits of summer squashes, zucchini, thin fleshed winter squash such as Delicata, peppers, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, individual leaves of Brussels sprouts, and corn on the cob, flowery broccoli and cauliflower, and small roots like fingerling potatoes, radishes, daikon radish, or individual garlic cloves. Plan on 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the veggie cuts.
The leaves of Brussels sprouts cook quickly in a high-temperature oven.
Really soft vegetables and pencil shaped – 450 F.
This includes asparagus, green beans, sugar snap peas, and mushrooms, and they cook in a flash at high heat, about 8 minutes. Shake the pan once after five minutes to turn over.
The Second Act, or maybe the Third
Since you heated the oven and took the time to cut up all those vegetables, spend just a tad more time to make extras, planned leftovers. They are delicious in salads, casseroles, frittatas, quiche, soups, or just chopped and served up like hash with an egg on top. Mix in some cooked beans or rice, and you have a base for a quick weeknight supper.
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