Roasted Vegetables

When in doubt, roast. For years when I have been at a loss for what to do with a given vegetable, I’ve roasted it. Well, not lettuce or spinach but I am seldom at a loss for what to do with them. It has usually been something lurking in the fridge and acting neglected like cauliflower or winter squash or kohlrabi that has stumped me, wanting something just a little different to do with them.
I certainly did not grow up eating roasted vegetables, except for potatoes which my Aunt Marian tucked under chicken while it roasted in the oven, always a good idea. I love roasted potatoes as much as I love French fries and they are a heck of a lot less messy to produce.
My mom, I am afraid, loved canned vegetables so a warmed up parade of green beans, peas, and corn with the occasional stewed tomatoes, accompanied the burgers or pork chops. Later, in my adulthood, she discovered steamed broccoli. I cannot remember when I first had roasted vegetables, but I suspect it was sometime in the past quarter century.
I roast even soft-ish vegetables like asparagus, summer squash, and peppers. High heat–425 degrees—for only twenty minutes or so. Roasting intensifies vegetable flavors, and onions, garlic, or herbs are good to use along with olive oil.
So here I was with about a half a head of cauliflower, a few carrots, parsnips, and an urge to use green beans from the freezer only because I have so many of them, plus some frozen red peppers from last year’s garden. Asparagus is still sprouting up nicely and I had a few stalks of that. This mix, I thought, required a strategy of roasting the hard vegetables first then adding the green beans, asparagus and peppers later to roast for a shorter amount of time.
This fairly promiscuous mix tasted very good. The parsnips’ sweetness was a pleasant little surprise in the mouth next to cauliflower. I don’t expect to replicate this dish any time soon. The vegetable supply around here simply doesn’t reoccur that way. Don’t expect a formal recipe to follow.
Then there were the leftovers. That was last night’s supper. Roasted vegetables in a cheesy sauce, with sautéed chicken chunks, and a decorative pasta–one that looks like a short fat curled tube—boiled up and tossed in. That was good, too.
As long as we are messing with vegetables, I heard recently from my neighbor Marny Heinen about grilled romaine lettuce. I thought she was pulling my chain, but no, you slather the outside of a whole head of romaine in olive oil, and stick it on the grill briefly until it has a slightly charred appearance. “It’s yummy,” she says. I’ll try it sometime soon.
Miscellaneous Roasted Vegetables
This is a non-recipe. Aim for a mix of hard vegetables which you roast together first with onions and garlic in olive or canola oil. Then add some green vegetables plus peppers in red or green (or orange and yellow) for a few more minutes. Sprinkle with a few herbs if you wish. Serve. You can turn this into a dish for one or twenty. The leftovers are good as a room temperature salad with our without pasta and salad dressing.
Your choice of the following hard vegetables or whatever you have on hand:
Cauliflower
Carrots
Parsnips
Turnips
Kohlrabi
Fresh green beans
Onion
Garlic
Olive or canola or other vegetable oil
Your choice of softer vegetables:
Broccoli
Frozen green beans
Asparagus
Peas
Green or sweet red bell peppers
Salt and pepper
Basil, marjoram, parsley dried (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel and chop the hard vegetables to bite sized pieces. Coarsely chop the onion and finely chop the garlic. Put the vegetables, onion, and garlic in a roasting pan and lightly dribble them with oil. Roast for about fifteen minutes or until they are barely tender. Meanwhile prepare the green vegetable in bite sized pieces, too. Add them to the already roasting vegetables, sprinkle with the optional dried herbs, and roast for additional five to ten minutes, or longer if you prefer.
Makes flexible number of servings.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.