Roasted Vegetables: A Few Tips

My mother hates to cook. This is not a secret. She doesn’t do it anymore, and she’s happy about it. My grandmother, however, was a great cook. My theory is sometimes the love of cooking skips a generation. Or, you know, desperate people do desperate things.

Despite her preference to have anyone but her do the cooking, my mother learned a few culinary tricks from her mother. Such as the ability to serve awful, overdone vegetables. Apparently, anything green (or orange or purple) was sentenced to death by boiling. For a very long time.

So I came to good veggies late. And when I discovered roasted vegetables, I felt like I’d entered a whole new world. In the summer, I roast on the grill; in winter, I use my oven. The key great roasting is high heat (425 ? 450 degrees), veggies of approximately the same size and density (so they cook evenly), and light seasonings — toss your veggies in a olive oil until they’re coated and season with salt and pepper.

Pretty much every vegetable is a good candidate for roasting. The heat brings out incredible flavors, and there’s nothing more gorgeous than, oh, carrots with caramelized exteriors. And, I promise, carrots have never tasted better! Even people who don’t like cooked carrots (what?) admit roasted carrots are delicious.

But I don’t stop with carrots. Roasted sweet potatoes. Roasted butternut squash (which, by the way, I had last night and practically licked the baking sheet). Roasted corn. Roasted broccoli. Roasted onions. Roasted garlic. Roasted asparagus. Heck, roasted potatoes. Ain’t no vegetable safe from my roasting frenzy.

Are you sensing a pattern here? Any vegetable you can eat is surely better roasted. There are a few tips that make roasting almost foolproof:

  • Heat is critical. You want the vegetables to be cooked through. You also want them to be caramelized. I generally set my oven to 450 degrees, dialing it back to 425 degrees for more delicate veggies. I also roast in the upper third of my oven.
  • Surface contact is essential. The parts of the vegetables in contact with your roasting pan will brown. You’ll most likely need to turn your vegetables about halfway through cooking so all parts of your vegetables get that surface contact.
  • Give them space. Don’t crowd your veggies on your roasting pan. Make sure there’s plenty of space for air and heat to circulate.
  • Size matters. Cut your vegetables to approximately the same size so everything cooks evenly.
  • Density matters. I know it’s obvious, but potatoes and asparagus cook at different times. If you’re doing mixed veggies, plan your roasting so those that take the longest to cook are started first.
  • Keep an eye on the oven. Every vegetable is different. Every oven is different. Any recipe you find is a guideline, not a rule. As you get toward the end of your projected cooking time, keep on eye on things so you don’t cross that line from caramelized to burnt.

Please share your favorite ideas for roasted vegetables. I’m always curious to learn what others are doing!

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