HERE’S ANOTHER RECIPE that doesn’t require a recipe—you know, like my “baked pears,” when the dish’s name itself tells you the whole story. Instead of baking pears, I’m making roasted vegetables this weekend, as I do most every week in giant batches. But I suppose there are always questions, such as: peel first, or not, or how hot should the oven be, and what do I dress the vegetables with first?
My favorite vegetable candidates in the cold weather months include parsnips, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, winter squash, onions, heads of garlic, beets (segregate if red-colored to prevent staining of neighbors), Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, broccoli raab. I hate fennel, but it roasts well. So do leeks. (In summer, when I have them, I do peppers, eggplant and summer squash.)
For efficiency: Since the oven’s on, I usually fill both racks and bake a whole sweet or white potato or some halved squash, too, as in the top photo, or a tray of marinated tofu, or, yes, even some more baked pears. Cooking up lots of vegetables at once means I have no excuse not to eat a portion at every meal, and even cold they make great snacks…or can become ingredients in other dishes, like these:
dishes to make with roasted vegetables
- Pasta: Toss into spaghetti or penne with good olive oil and some red pepper flakes and grated cheese (this is my favorite use for roasted cauliflower, broccoli raab or broccoli). Heidi Swanson’s recent roast squash and kale with orzo salad looks delicious, too.
- Over salad (halved Brussels sprouts are a favorite for this, perhaps tossed with vinaigrette, and topped with shaved hard cheese). Finely cubed mixed root vegetables, tossed in oil and balsamic and roasted, would make a great salad course on their own or over greens.
- In a tart shell or other pastry: Maybe layer roasted vegetables onto your favorite crust and melt some cheese on top, or make it more quiche-like with egg as well? Or skip the crust and just make a frittata.
MY LAISSEZ-FAIRE cooking style says that there’s a range of correct answers to all those detail questions, and I surveyed the experts, too:
roasted vegetable guidelines
- Temperature: Expert cooks suggest a 400-to-425-degree F oven. Ina Garten goes with 425, for instance. Be sure to preheat!
- If your oven causes the oiled veggies to smoke at that temperature, as mine can, 375 F will work, too, just slightly more slowly, and perhaps with less caramelizing.
- Technically, you want to cut up all your vegetables to the same approximate size, so they cook evenly, but I don’t unless I’m preparing a side dish of mixed roasted vegetables. I simply vary the cooking times by putting similar-sized things in their own pans and removing individual pans as the contents are done.
- Different vegetables in different sizes will take about 30 minutes to an hour, and your desired doneness is also a factor. For instance, I like the outsides of Brussels sprouts really deep brown, though they are “done” before that.
- I always clean the vegetables, but as for peeling, it’s optional if the skin is edible, such as potatoes (white or sweet); winter squash such as ‘Delicata,’ and even carrots and other roots. Often the browned skin after roasting is the tastiest part.
- I never peel beets (below), but rather slip their skins off after roasting. I cover them, either using foil or in a lidded, ovenproof cast-iron frying pan, as I do whole, untrimmed heads of garlic. Everything else I leave uncovered.
- A low-sided pan, such as for cookies, will result in best browning, though I do fine with pie and cake pans, including Pyrex, and even some old cast-iron frypans. Don’t overcrowd the pieces in the pan or they won’t brown.
- I typically use only olive oil and sea salt to dress my vegetables (though this extra-special homemade herbed salt is amazing). More flavor possibilities below.
- Don’t drizzle the oil over the vegetables when they are already in their baking pans. This leads to a smokier oven (and wasted oil). Toss vegetable pieces first instead in a big bowl with just a little oil and any other seasonings, before spreading the oiled pieces on the pan.
- If you’re adding fresh herbs, do so partway through cooking, maybe after 20 minutes, so they don’t incinerate.
- Shake the pan a few times during cooking to prevent sticking, or use tongs to turn things periodically.
what about added flavors?
- Again, olive oil and sea salt and pepper is the basic.
- Add balsamic vinegar to the above, or try a full-on balsamic dressing, perhaps with Dijon and crushed garlic, like this one.
- Herbed salts, or salt and some red pepper flakes or rosemary leaves, perhaps? (Again: I add fresh herbs late in the cooking period.)
- Moroccan-style spices are another possibility, including perhaps coriander, cumin, and even a little cinnamon and/or cayenne.
- Or maybe South Asian flavors such as curry powder, cardamom, garlic—you get the idea. (Jamie Oliver likes his summer vegetables, such as squash and peppers, with coriander and rosemary.)