By Keri White
As I move into fall, roasting replaces grilling or sautéing as my preferred way to cook vegetables.
Partly, this is due to fall produce lending itself beautifully to roasting — carrots, parsnips, squash and Brussels sprouts prepared this way will convert even the most ardent carnivore, but it also has to do with the weather. As the temperatures drop, we are indoors more, and crave heartier, more warming foods.
Roasting vegetables brings out a depth of flavor that you simply do not get from a sauté, steam or grill. The dry heat caramelizes the natural sugars in the vegetables, and a nutty, toasty flavor emerges with minimal effort by the cook. My favorite type of recipe!
The most basic preparation of oil/salt/pepper produces spectacular results, and I heartily encourage you to try that with any and all veggies at your disposal. As for the oil, you can use what you have or what you prefer — I like olive oil for flavor and health, but canola, corn or vegetable is just fine. I always line the pan with parchment because I detest scrubbing, but if you don’t have parchment, just skip that step and proceed.
The following recipes branch out a bit more from the basic salt/pepper/oil and integrate additional flavors into this useful technique.
I served this with a vegetarian Indian menu, and it was a huge hit. Using both green and red cabbage made for a nice presentation, but you can use one whole head of whatever you have lying around.
- ½ head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
- ½ head red cabbage, coarsely chopped
- ⅓ cup oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment. Place the cabbage in the pan and drizzle it with oil. Toss with your hands to distribute oil evenly. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and cumin and toss again.
Roast the cabbage for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is beginning to brown.
Paprika-roasted honeynut squash
Honeynut squash is butternut squash’s smaller, sweeter cousin. This recipe works well with any fall squash — delicata, acorn, butternut, etc. It was delightful with roasted chicken.
- 4 small honeynut squash, cut in half, stems and seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Pinch salt
- Sprinkle of black pepper
- Dusting of smoked paprika
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment. Place the squash, flesh side up, in the pan. Drizzle the squash with oil and honey so that the surface is lightly coated, and then sprinkle it with salt, pepper and paprika. Bake for 45 minutes until softened.
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend; the ingredients vary depending on where you are and who is making it, but they generally include thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. It can be sprinkled on everything from toast to yogurt, and adds a wonderful flavor to just about any savory dish. If the version of za’atar you are using includes salt, you may want to omit the salt from this recipe.
I used assorted colored carrots, which made for a lovely visual, but the standard-issue orange variety works just fine.
For quicker cooking, you can slice the carrots into coins, but I like the presentation of the whole carrots for this dish. No need to peel them, which is an added bonus for the cook.
- 1½ pounds large carrots, rinsed, stem ends removed
- ¼ cup oil
- 1 tablespoon za’atar
- ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
Heat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Place the carrots in a single layer on the parchment, and drizzle them with oil. Toss with your hands to coat evenly. Sprinkle the carrots with za’atar and salt (if using) and roast for 40 minutes until golden brown.
As tomato season wanes and the quality of the fruit begins to decline, roasting is a wonderful way to coax maximum flavor out of the last of the crop. These can be served hot as a side dish, cold in a salad, spread onto bread or sandwiches, mashed into a sauce (curry, marinara or any other type you can conceive of) or stirred into a soup. They are supremely versatile and oh-so-delicious.
I used plum tomatoes because that was what my market had for sale, but any variety such as Roma, beefsteak, etc., works fine.
- 2 pounds tomatoes, cut in half
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- Generous sprinkling fresh cracked pepper
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with parchment. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in the pan and drizzle them with oil. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and roast for 45-60 minutes until the tomatoes are beginning to collapse.
Keri White is a food writer in Philadelphia.