Roasting autumn veggies
It’s mid-November. Gardens are mostly harvested. Farm stands and farmers markets have shut down for the season. Our Saranac Lake Park-It offers drive-through service for items ordered ahead.
But there are still plenty of autumn vegetables to choose from. Most keep well, so if you stocked up on winter squashes and root vegetables, you’re still likely to have them. Even cauliflower keeps fairly long, and winter greens like collards, kale and Brussels sprouts are still growing in home gardens.
One easy way to prepare roots and other chunky autumn veggies is to roast them. The weather is cool, and turning on the oven warms up the house nicely.
Roasting is simple and yields delicious results. Something happens when the high heat of the oven hits the natural sugars in the vegetables, caramelizing and browning them. It is versatile; you can combine vegetables or roast them singly. Use your favorite seasonings to tailor them to your family’s tastes. Roasted veggies are a healthy, delicious and easy side dish for any meat or fish. You can also add them to other dishes, like salads or tacos.
Those root veggies also carry abundant health benefits. Most have just 50 to 100 calories per cup — and other winter veggies like cauliflower and Brussels sprouts have even less. They’re good sources of fiber. They are rich in various antioxidants, important phytochemicals that help ward off cancer, heart disease and other age-related problems. Orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash are rich in vitamin A; red beets contain the antioxidant anthocyanin. Beets, turnips and parsnips are good sources of folate, potassium and calcium. Cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are crucifers, known for their role in cancer prevention.
Which oil should you use for roasting? That’s up to you. All cooking oils are plant-based, and contain mainly monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. However, many commercial vegetable oils are highly processed and refined, making them nutritionally bankrupt.
Olive oil adds a distinctive flavor; it is also the main oil used in Mediterranean countries known for their healthy food habits and longevity. It does have a low smoke point — the temperature at which any cooking oil starts to break down and burn — and roasting is generally done at high temperatures. However, it’s the temperature of the food — not your baking dish — that’s key. Because you take the vegetables out of the oven when they reach about 150 degrees to 160 degrees F, the olive oil never gets hot enough to break down. If you want to use a natural, unrefined oil with a higher smoke point, try peanut, avocado or grapeseed oil.
Roasted vegetables are downright delightful — so get creative! Combine different vegetables and try a variety of seasonings. I find green Brussels sprouts go well with orange veggies like sweet potatoes, winter squash or carrots. Another great mix is cauliflower, broccoli and carrots.
What’s your favorite roasted veggie dish? Here are two of mine.
Brussels sprouts, Cauliflower and Carrot Roast
1 to 2 cups Brussels sprouts
1 or 2 carrots
About 1/8 head cauliflower (1 to 2 cups florets)
2 Tablespoons chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (or another oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 1 clove crushed garlic, 1/2 teaspoon basil, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Fresh herbs for garnish, optional
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil for easy cleanup.
Cut vegetables into chunks. Brussels sprouts can be left whole if small, or cut in half if large. A good way to cut cauliflower is to cut the large head in quarters (first, cut off the stem and trim off the leaves). Then cut into 1/3-inch thick slices, letting the florets on the edges fall off. Break large slices into smaller pieces. Cut carrots into 1-1/2-inch lengths.
Combine vegetables in large mixing bowl. In a cup or small bowl, mix the stock, olive oil, salt, pepper and any herbs or spices you’re using. Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat.
Place on baking sheet in an even layer.
Roast for 10 minutes, then stir. Roast another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a paring knife and nicely browned.
Serve hot, garnished with fresh herbs like basil, parsley or arugula.
Makes about 4 to 6 cups.
Fresh greens with
For the dressing:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon maple mustard or honey Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper
For the salad:
About 4 cups fresh greens (spinach, arugula, lettuce)
About 1 cup sweet onion slices or chopped scallions
2 cups roasted vegetables, like squash, beets, or carrots
Optional — chopped apples, crumbled feta cheese, toasted nuts
In bottom of salad bowl, combine dressing ingredients, and blend with a fork.
Add greens and onion; toss in the dressing to coat.
Add roasted veggies and toss again.
Top with any optional ingredients and serve.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at “Words are my World.”