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An Essential Guide to Roasting Vegetables

A reliable technique and great tips—plus exciting flavoring ideas for your favorite vegetables

Fine Cooking Issue 88
Photos: Scott Phillips
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If there’s someone in your life who doesn’t like vegetables, here’s how to turn things around: Roast the vegetables. Trust me, roasting browns them nicely on the outside, concentrating and sweetening their flavor in a way that even avowed veggie haters find hard not to like—and that goes for even the most unpopular of vegetables, like turnips and Brussels sprouts. But what’s especially great about roasting is that it’s fairly quick and hands-off, and much of the prep can be done ahead of roasting time. You can cut up the vegetables (except potatoes and sweet potatoes) in the morning, if you like, so by the time you’re ready to roast, all you have to do is toss them with oil and seasonings, spread them on a pan, and check on them occasionally as they roast.

Easy ways to add flavor

Roasting gives vegetables enough extra flavor that they’re terrific to eat as is—maybe brightened with a dash of lemon juice. This is perfect for a casual dinner, but for fancier occasions I’ve come up with several simple ways to add even more flavor. I toss the vegetables with a Moroccan-style spice rub or a lemony oil infused with rosemary and thyme before roasting, as both can stand up to the high heat of the oven. But I reserve flavorings that would burn in a hot oven to add after roasting. These include a Japanese toasted sesame salt called gomasio and a pan-Asian gingery lemon-soy splash. For a touch of the Middle East, I make a toasted garlic and coriander oil, and for a taste of France, the caramelized shallot butter is a personal favorite.

In general, when flavoring roasted vegetables (particularly after roasting), you want to avoid liquids because they’ll soften any crisp edges that develop during roasting. The ginger-soy splash here is a compromise: I love the flavors enough to sacrifice a little crispness—plus it’s really not much liquid.

Four tips for successful roasting

As I developed my basic roasted vegetable technique, I came up with a few pointers:

Roast in a very hot oven (475°F). The vegetables cook quickly—many vegetables take only 15 to 20 minutes—but they still have a chance to brown nicely on the outside by the time they become tender inside.

Cut evenly. It’s very important that you cut the vegetables in pieces of about the same size. Unevenly sized pieces won’t roast and brown in the same amount of time, and you’ll end up with both overroasted and underroasted vegetables.

Line the pan. To prevent sticking, line the pan with a sheet of parchment; otherwise, when you have to pry stuck vegetables off the baking sheet, it’s the tasty brown bottoms that are left on the pan.

Position vegetables near the pan’s edges. If the vegetable pieces cover the pan sparsely, arrange them more toward the edges of the pan. Pieces near the edge brown better.

Roasting a medley of vegetables

Because they’ll probably have different cooking times, it’s best to roast a variety of vegetables (for a total of 1 pound) separately. You can roast them on different sections of the same baking sheet or, even better, on a separate baking sheet for each vegetable—this makes it easier to remove each from the oven when it’s done. You can then combine them after roasting.

Roast a bigger batch

If you need more servings than a single batch yields, you can easily double or triple these basic roasting recipes. Just don’t crowd the vegetables on the baking sheet—they won’t brown as well if they’re packed too closely. Ideally, there should be at least 1/2 inch between the pieces. Use another baking sheet if necessary and swap the sheets’ positions in the oven about halfway through the roasting time so that the vegetables will roast evenly.


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