Among all the preparations for vegetables, there is one overlooked cooking method that is easy and delicious to employ. Roasted vegetables are easy to make, and roasting is an excellent way to add flavor. You can roast most vegetables, and the adornment options are almost endless. There are four important parts to consider when making your roasted vegetables: the vegetables that you chose, the oil that you use, seasoning, and heat. Here is a closer look at all of those factors.
The four elements of great roasted vegetables:
The vegetables that you choose will obviously have a huge impact on the finished product. The most common roasted vegetables are root veggies. That is because they are more fibrous or starchy and they hold up to roasting incredibly well. Leafy veggies or vegetables with a higher water content do not usually hold up well to roasting applications. When roasting, it is important to make sure that the cut sizes are even so that all of the veggies cook evenly. However, you can try to roast any vegetable that you want. Give it a try and see if is to your liking.
Here are some of our favorite vegetables for roasting:
- Sweet potatoes
- Green beans
- Mushrooms (Technically mushrooms are not vegetables, but we can pretend they are anyway)
Oil is an essential part to roasting vegetables. The oil is the substance that heats up with the radiant energy of the oven and causes browning. Oil is an efficient medium for transferring heat energy to the vegetables. Browning is the result of the caramelization of sugars in the veggies, and browning is the whole reason to roast veggies, in my opinion. I usually toss the vegetables in a bowl with the oil and seasoning before laying them out on a sheet pan. Several elements should help you decide what oil to choose, and the most important factor is flavor. The dry heat of roasting is pretty easy on oils as long as you keep the oven below 425 degrees. Just make sure that the vegetables are evenly coated. The oil will also help the seasoning to stick to the veggies as well.
Here are some of our favorite oils for roasting:
- Extra virgin olive oil for low temps with high flavor addition.
- Refined pure olive oils for higher temps and less flavor
- Peanut oil for high temps (be careful for allergies)
- Walnut oil for a nutty option
- Avocado oil for high temperatures
- Sesame oil for an Asian flare
- Canola oil for little flavor addition and high cooking temperature.
- Virgin Coconut oil for low temperature and big coconut flavor
- Refined Coconut oils for higher heat and less flavor
Do you see a trend? The more refined the oil is, the less flavor it will bring to the party, but the higher heat it can handle.
The seasoning that you choose to put onto your roasted vegetables is where you can add to the rich roasted flavor. The options here are literally endless. You can go for just salt and pepper (the minimum necessity), or any number of seasoning mixes that you can buy at the market. Try anything that you like and see how it comes out. Roasted broccoli with Montreal steak seasoning and parmesan cheese is a regular menu item in our house.
Here are some of our favorite combinations of roasted vegetable seasoning:
- Rosemary and lemon
- Cardamom and orange
- Thyme and black pepper
- Cayenne pepper and lime zest
- Montreal Steak seasoning
- Basil and Parmesan
- Garlic, Garlic, Garlic! Whole roasted cloves or minced and tossed with the veggies.
- Smoked-spicy paprika and brown sugar (great on root vegetables and squash)
- Garam Masala
- Herbs de Provence
When roasting vegetables, it is necessary to use a relatively high heat. I usually set my oven to 375 - 425 degrees Fahrenheit (all future temps in Fahrenheit as well). Watch the veggies closely while cooking, as they can burn quickly; there is a fine line between roasted golden brown and burnt to a crisp. I usually plan on roasting my vegetables for twenty minutes at 375, and then I check the oven every five minutes if they are not finished cooking by that point. However, depending on what vegetables you selected, and the temperature of your oven, your cooking time could vary considerably. A good practice is that if you are roasting vegetables, then you need to keep an eye on them.
Here are some technique tips:
- Roast smaller stock vegetables (asparagus), or thinly sliced vegetables, at a higher heat for a shorter time.
- Roast large chunky vegetables on a lower heat for longer.
- The denser the veggie, the more moderate the temperature and longer cooking time.
- Try to chop your vegetables to the same size so that they will cook evenly.
- Plants with a higher water content will take longer to cook, but can handle higher heats because of their moisture content.
- Mixing soft vegetables with dense or high water content vegetables may make them not cook even. There is nothing worse than a mushy zucchini in the same dish with a hard chunk of undercooked butternut squash.
- Watch the oven! Don't throw the veggies in without a timer and get sidetracked. They are easy to burn! A watched pot may never boil, but roasted vegetables aren't a pot of water and will burn.
If you're not already having a love affair with roasted vegetables, it's time to start the oven and dust off those chopping skills because roasted veggies are an easy side dish to any main course, or they're wonderful as the centerpiece of your meal. Once you know the basics and get your feet wet, there's no reason you will ever have to run out of flavor combinations.