14 November 2012

Roasting Veggies

Hello lovely readers. My apologies for neglecting you; I've just been swamped. Even now, I should either be grading something, reading something, or prepping something for one (all) of my classes (or doing the dishes or cleaning my side of the bedroom or...), but I just don't have the brain capacity right now. All this is a really long way for me to apologize if this blog post doesn't make any sense. :)

I've created a list of blog posts that I'll eventually get to, but this one about roasted veggies seemed like a perfect post for the changing of the weather (it was 70 two days ago and only got to about 40 today). You might be asking yourself why roasted veggies deserve their own blog post. If so, that's okay. It's just likely that you've not experienced the amazing transformation veggies make in the dry heat of the oven! Plus, if you're new to vegan cooking or eating, roasting veggies makes leads to a different taste compared to any other cooking method. Thus, this is a great way to make it easy to eat any veggie multiple times without it getting old. As far as I'm aware, almost all veggies can be roasted to amazing results. I say "almost" since I've not tried them all, but every one I've tried is amazing. Pair them with a whole grain or some lovely lentil dish, and you've got a complete and satisfying meal.

What I've got in the rest of this post is a basic roasting method, a couple specific combinations we love, and then suggestions for your own future experimentation (plus a beautiful picture my sister took of roasted veggies). So dig in!

Basic Roasting Method
1. Chop your veggie(s) of choice into bite-sized pieces. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400.
2. Toss your veggie bites with a drizzle or two of olive oil (we use "extra light" for this because it is almost flavorless) and a sprinkle of kosher salt (see notes below).
3. Bake for 10-40 minutes depending on density of veggies, size of pieces, and quantity in the oven. Veggies are done when they are easily pierced with a fork.

Spring-time Roasted Asparagus
Ingredients
1 lb. asparagus, tough ends trimmed off
olive oil
kosher salt
lemon juice

Directions
Lay the asparagus spears on a over-safe dish with at least a small lip on it (we often use a cookie sheet). Drizzle with olive oil, kosher salt, and lemon juice, then swirl them around to coat. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until soft. (Garlic pairs well with this also.)


Anytime Roasted Broccoli
(this is a slight variation from Alton Brown's recipe)
Ingredients
1 lb. broccoli, cut into florets of equal size
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 c. panko bread crumbs
1/4 c. nutritional yeast

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 425. While it is preheating, toast the panko bread crumbs and nutritional yeast until golden. WATCH - this burns quickly!
2. Toss the toasted mixture with all other ingredients.
3. Roast 10-15 minutes or until tender.


Suggestions & Hints
  • Veggies we've tried and loved: asparagus, beets (of all colors), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, onion, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips.
  • Don't forget about winter squashes! They work very well with roasting, but you do not need to cut them into bite sized pieces usually (though you could). Usually, these should be roasted in halves, cut side down, until there is some give when you press on them, which could take anywhere from 25-45 minutes. Try spaghetti squash if you haven't yet - it's awesome!
  • Why kosher salt? Kosher salt is cut in a way that makes for larger, flatter salt crystals. Thus, when you sprinkle it on foods, it sticks better. The better stick leads to more of the water in the food to leak out, which heightens the flavor of whatever it is you're cooking. However, don't get rid of your iodized salt, as most kosher salt is not iodized and we need trace amounts of that in our diets. 
  • If you've not used panko bread crumbs before, they are super crunchy Japanese-style bread crumbs. You'll be able to find them at almost any grocery store, either with the other types of bread crumbs or in an international foods section. Don't switch up regular breadcrumbs for panko; they do not substitute well. 
  • Mix up your veggies! Check out this beautiful picture my sister took a week or so ago of all sorts of mixed and roasted veggies. If you do this, be sure to cut slower-cooking (denser) veggies in slightly smaller pieces so that everything cooks at about the same rate.
  • Use herbs and spices! Love basil? Sprinkle on dried basil or add fresh basil toward the end of cooking. Want something spicy? Toss in a dash of red pepper flakes. Honestly, add in what tastes good to you. I would suggest that you keep the herbs and spices as background flavors, as that allows the flavor of the veggies to shine through. In addition, don't go overboard and pile on every herb/spice you like all at once. A good rule might be no more than two additional flavors beyond the oil and salt (so garlic and red pepper, for example).

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