Cooking at home more these days? Here’s a primer on a basic technique for creating simple, healthy meals: roasting vegetables.
If you love ordering deeply caramelized, crispy Brussels sprouts, carrots or cauliflower from a restaurant but have never made them yourself, now is your chance to experience just how easy it is.
The secret to the addicting flavor of roasted — or grilled — food is that the natural sugars in the food are browned and caramelized, resulting in great texture and flavor.
You need very little equipment to roast vegetables indoors. If you have a sheet pan and a rack that fits in the sheet pan — think cookie cooling rack — you can roast vegetables just like your favorite restaurant does. I place a sheet of parchment on the bottom of the pan to make the cleanup easier, but you could use foil in a pinch.
Once you have the equipment in place, decide what veggies to roast. With a thin coating of olive oil and some kosher salt, almost every root vegetable turns into “garden candy.” The same goes for dense vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. To make sure all the vegetables are done at the same time, roast vegetables of similar size and weight together. I love the dark, deeply caramelized bits, so I let them roast until they have crispy, dark, toasty edges and are soft and creamy inside.
The key is letting the vegetables roast slowly at a classic roasting temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit. A higher temperature will brown the outside before the inside has cooked through, and they will be crunchy, not soft and creamy.
Baby carrots with the tops on are my favorite root vegetable to roast whole. They add color and drama to the plate, and the natural sweetness of the carrots intensifies and deepens. They are sweet, savory and addicting.
I also love Brussels sprouts cut in half and roasted cut side down until the edges curl up.
Any kind of squash or potato is easily roasted when cut into slabs or cubes and lightly coated with olive oil, salt, and fresh or dried herbs like rosemary and thyme. If the vegetables are small, like baby potatoes, they are best left whole so the outside can puff up and become crunchy, while the inside steams and becomes silky.
Keep the food elevated in the oven so the hot air can rotate around it, and make sure every exposed surface is coated with olive oil so no moisture can escape.
The cooking time will generally be 45 to 60 minutes, but will depend on the size and weight of the food. A small paring knife inserted in the center will tell you if the vegetable’s done. If the knife goes in as easily as into soft butter, and the outside is nicely browned, the food is done.
Let the vegetables rest for a few minutes on the rack, and serve hot or at room temperature.
As good as they are plain, roasted vegetables are even better with a finishing touch of flavor. Sprinkle with a bit of spice or fragrant olive oil, or brush on a bold vinaigrette to add a touch of acid and oil.
Any leftover roasted vegetables are delicious the next day chopped and added to a salad, served as an antipasto platter at room temperature, or made into a sandwich.