Basics: Roasting Vegetables

Roasted Spring Vegetables

In my opinion, the simplest and most rewarding vegetable-cooking technique is roasting. It requires time, yes, but 80% of the required time is inactive, which means you can use it to katch up with your Kardashian episodes. I like my roasted vegetables to be very crispy and caramelized, so I tend to roast them at a fairly high temperature, like 400 F or above. If you are roasting something with a high water content like tomatoes, you could go lower to let the flavors concentrate without too much browning, but I’d stay above 350. Roasting is one of those things you have to practice to figure out what you like and what your oven will do, but it’s forgiving enough that your experiments will always turn out edible, if not quite delicious.

For this demonstration I decided to make some roasted spring vegetables: baby red potatoes, pearl onions, and asparagus. The whole thing took about an hour, but the veggies all have different cook times, so I added them to the pan in order of how much time they needed. Start by cutting your potatoes in half or quarters depending on how large they are. Then pile them on a baking dish, (I like mine lined with non-stick foil) toss them with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper. Spread them out, throw them in your pre-heated oven, and let them roast for 15-20 minutes.

Potatoes for Roasting

While the potatoes roasted, I peeled my pearl onions. Peeling pearl onions without blanching them is stupid, but I was hell-bent on not adding another step to this process, so I stood over the sink for what felt like my whole life peeling these suckers by hand. And, obviously, it turned out to be a beast of a step anyway. If you MUST have pearl onions like me, just blanch them – the skins will come off easily and you will save yourself some grief. If you are smarter than me, get a regular onion, cut it in wedges like a normal person, and roast that instead. Put the onions and potatoes in the oven for another 25-30 minutes while you snap your asparagus.

Potatoes, Onions, Asparagus

Roasted vegetables usually taste amazing without any fancy seasoning, but if you want to gild the lily you can make dressing. I made one with lemon, garlic, parsley, olive oil and grated Grana Padano cheese. PS grating garlic on a microplane is a lot faster than mincing it with a knife (for me anyway). After your potatoes and onions have roasted, add the asparagus to the pan (with more olive oil and salt) and throw everything back in the oven for 10-15 more minutes.

Garlic and Dressing

The main things to remember when roasting any vegetable are: cook time, seasoning, and not crowding the pan. Any hard root-vegetable is going to require at least an hour of cooking, so plan accordingly. Onions and brussels sprouts can be done in 30-45 minutes, and smaller vegetables with higher water content  like asparagus and green beans can be done in 10-20 minutes, depending on whether you want them crisp-tender or just done. Always toss the vegetables with some kind of cooking fat like olive oil or peanut oil or butter, and always season with salt. From there you can add any spices you want. Even woody herbs like thyme and rosemary can go in and roast with the veggies. Fresh herbs like parsley and dill should be added at the end so they don’t burn up and lose their taste in cooking.

When it comes to crowding the pan, keep in mind that all vegetables contain water, and that the real beauty of roasting is that dry heat causes caramelization. When your pan is over crowded, your vegetables steam instead of roast and it makes it difficult for them to form any lovely brown and crispy edges. Aim for at least a half inch of space between all your veggies, but a little less than that won’t be the end of the world. If the pan is really tightly packed though, bust out another baking sheet and let everything breathe. If you line your pans with foil they might not even get dirty anyway.

Roasted Vegetables

Dressing and Vegetables

Sunny Vegetables

Roasted vegetables are so simple and so much more delicious than steamed vegetables. If there’s any vegetable in the world that you think you don’t like, try roasting it and try not to change your mind.

  1. This makes my mouth water. Thanks for the tips. I'll be giving this a try.

    Lisa — March 18, 2013
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Poblano Pesto

Work and school were canceled yesterday in Maryland for some snow that only kind of happened. In my neck of the woods the snow had melted by noon, but I know others got hit a bit harder. It’s kind of silly how much people freak out about snow here on the east coast. If I still lived in Utah, today’s storm would have been like an average day in early April. Still, I like a day off better than trudging to work in the snow.

This past weekend I got it in my head that I needed to make pesto out of poblano peppers. I flew by the seat of my pants and it pretty much worked. I started by popping the whole poblanos on the bare oven rack a few inches from the broiler and letting them get nice and black. Some people really like the smell of charring peppers but, I have to admit, I think it smells like Warped Tour. Back when I used to go to Warped Tour. I mean it smells like the weed that I smelled at Warped Tour, since that’s the only place I’ve ever really smelled it. But I do love charred peppers, so I live with the smell.

Poblano Peppers and Pasta

While I was busy hot-boxing the kitchen, Cody was on call for photo ops. He kept himself entertained while I cooked by making Murdock yawn. It’s pretty funny, nine times out of ten if you scratch his ears just right he yawns. Predictable as clockwork.

Dog Yawning

Anyway, I made some pasta and some crostinis as vehicles for my pesto. Crostinis are just croutons made from sliced baguette. I make mine by slicing the baguette on the bias, drizzling the slices with olive oil, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and baking at 350 for about  15 to 20 minutes. These things are my favorite way to get most dips to my mouth, next to Utz ripples. There are occasions when Utz simply won’t do, and in these cases I usually make crostini.

Poblano Pesto with Crostini

To finish the pesto, let the poblanos steam in a covered bowl for a few minutes, until they are cool enough to handle. Then peel the skins from the pepper, remove the stems and seeds, and put them in your food processor. Add to that about a cup of grated manchego cheese (parmesan would work too), a quarter of an onion, a garlic clove, a jalapeno, lime juice, olive oil, and cilantro. Give the whole thing a few pulses and that’s my version of poblano pesto. You could also add marcona almonds, but I didn’t and it still tasted great.

Poblano Pesto with Angel Hair Pasta

Those pasta photos are pretty right? Cody takes a good picture but, in all honesty, I’m not awesome at making pasta and this batch was sort of meh. I mean I can get pasta out of the pot and on to a plate when it’s “al dente”, but I’ve had such glorious pasta in my life that I am painfully aware of how good it can be and how far mine is from being really good. So I’m on a quest for someone who can teach me how to finesse pasta into silk and love instead of stick and starch. Anyone have an Italian grandma or grandpa they’d like to share?

  1. I love you. And your blog. And Cody. And Murdock, as long as he doesn't lick me or stick his wet nose on me.

    Tricia — March 7, 2013
    1. Tricia I miss you! But you know Murdock is incapable of being near you without finding a way to drool on you.

      courtney — March 7, 2013
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