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Here’s why you absolutely should be roasting all of your vegetables

Consider a big pile of roasted veggies for your holiday table.
Roasted acorn squash [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 13

That Baader-Meinhof thing, where you read about a purple Volkswagen and then you start noticing purple Volkswagens everywhere? That’s been happening to me with leeks.

I’ve seen them in just-released cookbooks, in plenty of Thanksgiving recipes and now, all the time, on the produce shelves at my grocery store.

I have rarely thought about leeks otherwise, and I don’t know why. Have scallions cornered the market on green-and-white alliums that provide a subtle onion-y note? Are the giant, tough leeks just not as appealing as the miniature stalks? Is it because I wasn’t trained at a Parisian cooking school in the style of classic French cuisine?

I bet you know where this is going.

Leeks are a treasured culinary jewel!

And something really magical happens when they are covered with olive oil and cooked in a hot oven. The sugars break down, tenderizing the thick stalk and tough leaves and making the thinner edges brown and crispy. They taste completely different roasted than they do cooked almost any other way, a textbook example of a vegetable that only gets better when it hangs out in a very hot oven for a while.

Most vegetables love the oven, though. Broccoli, cauliflower, onions, squash, bell peppers — a little oil, a little salt, 400 degrees and up, done. And as I cooked a bevy of veggies one recent weekend along with my newly beloved leeks, I was reminded of perhaps the best thing about roasted vegetables: They are just as good at room temperature as they are hot.

The flavors are so concentrated, the textures so wonderfully complex, that even cooled off a little bit they offer something special. In the weeklong culinary school I did attend last year at the Culinary Institute of America, they told us to think about roasting as a way to apply another flavor to an item, like seasoning. Roast individual components before adding them to recipes and you’ve already built one additional layer.

It may sound crazy to add yet another dish that has to go in the oven to your Thanksgiving menu, but roasted vegetables would make a great addition to your holiday table.

They could be cooked before the turkey goes in, kept on a baking sheet, then reheated for just a few minutes when the rest of the sides go in. Or they could be kept at room temperature, dressed with a little more oil, maybe some roasted nuts or seeds, fresh herbs — heck, call it a roasted vegetable salad, and everyone will be impressed by your fresh new side.

Caramelized Leeks

Roasted leeks and radishes [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]

4 leeks

½ cup olive oil

4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons paprika

1 lemon, cut in half

Flaky salt, for serving, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the dark green tougher tops of the leeks off and discard or use for another purpose, so you’re just working with the white and pale-green parts only. Cut leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse really well, getting in between all of the leek leaves, then pat dry with a paper towel.

Place leeks on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and paprika, then use your hands to coat the leeks in the oil and seasonings, getting in between all the leaves.

Place leeks cut-side down on baking sheet, then roast for 20 minutes without opening the oven. Check on leeks. Keep roasting until the tops are browned and the leeks are very soft.

Remove to a serving platter, squeeze with fresh lemon and top with flaky salt if desired.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Roasted Buttery Squash

Roasted acorn squash [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]

You can use acorn or butternut squash for this recipe.

2 acorn squash, or 1 small butternut squash

4 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cumin

¼ teaspoon turmeric

Fresh thyme leaves, about a handful

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Wash the squash, then dry with a towel. Cut squash in half lengthwise, then slice into ½-inch-thick half-moons. Don’t remove the seeds; they’ll get nice and crispy in the oven.

Place the half-moons on a large baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with a large pinch of salt. Roast for 15 minutes, then flip squash and roast for another 15. At this point, check for doneness. Squash should be tender when pierced with a fork, and nicely browned on all sides. If not, keep cooking.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add butter, cinnamon, cumin and turmeric. Microwave in 30-second increments until butter has melted. Stir well.

Remove squash from oven to a serving platter and drizzle butter mixture over top. Scatter fresh thyme leaves over top. Serve.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Citrus Roasted Carrots

Roasted citrus carrots. [MICHELLE STARK | Tampa Bay Times]

About 1 pound whole carrots, tops removed and cut lengthwise into ½-inch-thick pieces

1 small red or white onion, peeled and cut into thick wedges

1 small unpeeled navel orange

¼ cup olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the carrots, onion and orange on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste, then toss with your hands until everything is thoroughly coated.

Add red pepper flakes and maple syrup and toss lightly.

Roast, shaking the baking sheet occasionally so everything gets evenly cooked, until the carrots are pretty soft and lightly browned. Start checking around 20 minutes, to make sure the onion and oranges don’t burn.

When everything is nice and tender and caramelized, remove baking sheet from oven. Remove to a serving dish and serve. The dish is good warm or at room temperature.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Lemony Roasted Broccoli

1 head broccoli

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced or grated

Kosher salt

Pepper

¼ cup chopped fresh parley

Juice from 1 lemon

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Break the head of broccoli down into smaller stalks; don’t trim the stems, they’ll get nice and tender in the oven.

On a large baking sheet, toss together the broccoli, olive oil, garlic and a large pinch of both salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until the broccoli is just beginning to char. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the parsley on top.

Remove to a serving plate and, just before serving, top with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes and more salt and pepper.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Buttered Radishes

A couple bunches of radishes, about 1 pound

2 teaspoons olive oil

Salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 tablespoons softened butter

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash radishes and their greens well, then pat dry with a paper towel.

Pull the greens off the radishes and toss them in a bowl with 1 teaspoon oil.

Cut the radishes in half, place them on the baking sheet and toss them with the remaining oil, salt and black pepper. Place them cut-side down for best results.

Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned and soft when pierced with a fork. Add 2 tablespoons butter and the radish greens to the baking sheet, shake the pan vigorously to combine everything, then roast for another 5 or so minutes. Check after about 3 minutes to make sure greens aren’t burning.

Remove from the oven. Arrange leaves on a serving platter. Add remaining butter to baking sheet, shake the sheet so the butter melts and coats the radishes, then add radishes to platter.

Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

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