Roasted vegetables are not fancy food. They are simple food. They are sweet and savory at the same time. They are just the right thing to make during the time of year when your heat hasn’t yet kicked on and a warm oven is a welcome thing on cool night. When done right, they’re so flavorful and delicious that you want to snack on them like junk food. And what virtuous junk food they are.
Sadly, they’re a food that sometimes suffer in the journey from chopped to cooked. So while this isn’t a recipe per se, here are a few of my favorite tips for enjoying what can easily be the most delightful food of the season.
1. Chop veggies into like-sized pieces. I don’t pull out a ruler or anything, but I try to make sure that I’m more or less chopping vegetables into comparably sized pieces. (Except when I’m using celeriac, which I cut slightly smaller than everything else so that it cooks faster.)
2. Coat your veggies evenly. In my book, the most successful veggies are tossed in olive oil before being added to pan to ensure that they’re thoroughly coated. A thorough coat doesn’t mean dripping, just glistening. (After coating with oil I sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper.)
3. Use a sheet pan. Instead of loading veggies into a high-sided baking dish that might trap the steam and leave you with limp vegetables, I spread them out in a single layer on a metal sheet pan so they can crisp up. Because our kitchen has a tiny apartment-sized oven, we use two jelly roll-sized pans to roast ours.
4. Use a hot oven. I cook my veggies at between 400 and 450 degrees. Popped into a hot oven for between 20 and 30 minutes, the veggies can get nice and tender on the inside and perfectly browned on the outside. Keep a fork handy to give the vegetables a try as they cook. I call my vegetables ready when they’re tender, not mushy.
5. Toss mid-cook. Use a spatula to push your veggies around a bit. Make sure they have the chance to crisp up on all sides, but keep them loose enough that you’re not leaving the most delicious parts behind by burning them onto the pan.
I used carrots, celeriac, two kinds of cauliflower, shallots, and yellow onions tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Now your turn. What are your favorite fall vegetables for roasting?