My mother did a great job of cooking potatoes. Boiled, baked, mashed, scalloped, fried–they were all cooked expertly and ended up delicious. But when it came to other vegetables, she adhered to the old country housewife policy of cooking them until they gave up and screamed for mercy.
Maybe that’s why I still like green beans and peas that are faintly yellowed and mushy, though my wife has been patiently trying to get me to prefer them half done. It took nearly ten years and freshly picked green beans from our garden that convinced me she was right: Vegetables should not be overcooked. Sorry, Mom.
Jerri still does a better job with vegetables than I (though she skimps on the butter), but I have learned how to roast them. If I were a gambler I would bet that you would react to your first serving of roasted vegetables like I did: “Why haven’t I been making these for the past 50 years?”
It’s simple and easy. The “recipe” below is really a guide sheet rather than a recipe. One good rule to keep in mind is not to overdo the herbs to start with. You want to taste the vegetables. Don’t use more than a half teaspoon of seasoning in total for each cup of vegetables.
For example, for three cups of vegetables like potatoes, carrots, onions, red bell pepper and zucchini, you might use a quarter teaspoon of salt, 3 or 4 turns of the pepper grinder, an eighth teaspoon of thyme, a quarter teaspoon of oregano and a half teaspoon of basil. Half way through the roasting you can sprinkle a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar on the veggies if you want. You can adjust the seasoning to your taste the next time you make it, and of course you can always add salt at the table.
CHOICE OF VEGETABLES:
I especially like to roast vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, yams and winter squashes. Green and red bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant and mushrooms also roast well but cook more quickly than the root vegetables and winter squashes.
Olive oil with a light dash of salt and pepper may be all you need, but I always add other herbs depending on the vegetables going in the oven. My favorite choices are basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme. If I am roasting mushrooms I always add a dash of garlic powder if there are no garlic cloves in the roasting pan. I often sprinkle a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar over the vegetables when they are about half done.
Clean and peel the vegetables as necessary and cut them into generous bite-sized pieces, about 3/4 to 1 inch on a side. If you have both root vegetables and more tender varieties such as peppers or mushrooms, keep them in separate bowls.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Start with the root vegetables. For each cup of vegetables in the bowl, add about 1 teaspoon of olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper and dashes of other herbs as you want. Toss the vegetables until each piece has a thin coat of oil. If necessary, add a little more oil.
For easier cleanup you can line a baking pan with aluminum foil, because the sugar in the vegetables will caramelize in the pan. I use a glass baking dish which cleans up well with only a little soaking. Spray or grease the pan lightly and spread the vegetables in a single layer. Roast about ten minutes and stir them. After 20 minutes turn them with a spatula to make sure they cook evenly. If you have peppers, mushrooms, etc. that you have oiled and seasoned and have room in the roasting pan, this is the time to add them Continue roasting for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every eight to ten minutes until the vegetables have some brown edges.
If you have more vegetables than will fit in a single layer in one pan, use multiple pans or cookie sheets.