Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Roasted Veggies

Starting with the October issues of food magazines (which begin to show up in early September), certain kinds of recipes are almost guaranteed to be repeated each year and in every periodical. You can’t swing a dead squash vine without hitting a recipe for roasted turkey, butternut squash soup, or roasted vegetables.

If you take the time to compare several recipes for, say roasted vegetables, (this is the kind of thing I do for fun) you can see that they are variations on a theme. You could quite simply start with one basic recipe and add to it according to your taste or the availability of ingredients. I start with the roots, tubers and winter squashes that begin to pile up around here this time of year. I particularly like carrots, potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, butternut squash (it is easier to peel than other squashes), radishes (trust me on this one; they’re fantastic!), and even beets. Yes, I said it. Beets. I’m coming to like them in my roasted vegetable medleys, but don’t tell anyone. It’ll ruin my reputation as a life-long beetroot-hater.

Most of these vegetables have quite a bit of sweetness to them that rises to the surface and caramelizes in a hot oven. They have their own brilliant flavors that need little or no enhancement. I simply sprinkle them with plenty of salt and pepper, drizzle them liberally with olive oil and subject them to a hot oven until they have been sufficiently bent to my will. I like when they are quite tender all the way through, but especially crispy and brown on the outside with that tangy, slightly bitter flavor of almost burnt sugar about them.

Roasting vegetables is really easy (the most difficult part is cutting and peeling hard veggies like squash), and largely hands-off. I don’t even really use a recipe, so, what I’ve written below is really just a guideline and a method. You could also roast broccoli and cauliflower or add onions and garlic cloves to your medley. If you do roast broccoli or cauliflower, expect it to take less time than harder root vegetables and squash. You could also add herbs or spices to your roasted vegetables, but they tend to burn quickly and lose their flavor or develop unpleasant flavors. I would recommend adding such seasonings after or near the end of roasting.

If you make roasted vegetables for company, especially for folks who haven’t had them much before, expect them to become the star of the show. I’ve served these for dinner to family members, and I’m not sure most of them would remember what else we had to eat. They couldn’t, however, stop talking about the roasted vegetables.

Roasted Vegetables Recipe
The measurements and time listed here are approximate. If you roast red beetroot with other vegetables, give them their own pan or their own corner of the communal pan, otherwise they will turn everything pink.

4-6 cups vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, beets, winter squash), peeled and cut into uniform cubes, 1-2 inches
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 heavy pinches coarse (kosher) salt, or to taste
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, combine the vegetables with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir together to coat the vegetables well with the oil.

2. Place the vegetables in a large roasting pan or a sheet pan. Bake at 400 F for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or more depending on the size of the cut vegetables. Stir occasionally with a spatula to prevent sticking. Vegetables are finished when tender and caramelized to your liking.

Makes 4-6 servings

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