Nothing makes me feel more accomplished in the kitchen than when I’m able to turn somebody on to a food that they thought they could never like. When the pickiest of eaters come by for a meal, it’s time to pull out the big guns. One weapon in my culinary arsenal that can transform an ingredient like no other is that of roasting. Using high temperatures and just a few basic seasonings, you can create a depth of flavor that will make a believer out of the harshest of critics. Did I mention that it’s E-A-S-Y?
Here’s what you’ll need:
Vegetables that you’d like to roast. First up, I’m doing broccoli and cauliflower.
(Did I mention it was E-A-S-Y?)
Give your veggies a nice gentle rinse to get them ready for their trip to roasting town. After the rinse, make sure you dry the vegetables off VERY well. I can’t emphasize this enough. If you put these vegetables into the oven covered with H2O, they will simply steam instead of roast, meaning you will miss out on lots of flavor. This will cause lots of sadness and tears. For goodness sake, pat those suckers dry! Get every ounce of moisture off of them. When they’re dry and cut into bite-sized pieces you’re ready to put them on the roasting pan. A cookie tray lined with aluminum foil will do the trick just nicely. By lining the pan with foil, you’re creating a clean-up process that will take you the amount of time it takes to wad up a piece of foil. Now that’s what I call doing the dishes!
When your veggies are on the tray, give them a good drizzle of olive oil (this isn’t the place for vegetable, canola, or any other kind of oil). Also hit them up with some salt and pepper. That’s really all you need. Did I mention that this was E-A-S-Y? Give them a nice mix with your hands and you’re ready to slam them in the oven. Place your roasting tray with vegetables into a pre-heated 425 degree oven and just wait. Watch some TV. Read a good book. Sip some wine. After about 10 minutes, take a look inside the oven to see what’s happening. You should start to see the edges of the vegetables getting nice and brown. The broccoli will start to get a little crunchy looking. Take your pan out of the oven and give the vegetables a nice shake to give the other sides a chance to get nice and brown. Cooking at a high temperature like this allows the natural sugars in the vegetables to caramelize, giving them an entirely different flavor. Even the biggest broccoli haters might be surprised at just how different and exciting the flavor can become when roasted. Yes, I just said broccoli can be exciting. After another 10 minutes or so, you’re going to have perfectly roasted and caramelized cauliflower and broccoli. Your cooking times may vary slightly depending on the whims of your oven. Your nose and eyes will tell you when it’s done. You don’t want to burn it, but don’t be afraid of letting it brown. Here’s what it should look like when it is perfectly cooked:
That brown color you see there is pure flavor!! It’ll melt in your mouth and make your taste buds do back flips. Of course now all you need is a plate and a hungry mouth. There’s always a hungry mouth, or two, or three in my kitchen.
For an extra pop of flavor, you could add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese while the vegetables are still piping hot. These roasted gems make a hearty side dish that can stand up next to some bold flavors on the dinner table!
Next up, a vegetable that has a bit more of a following…asparagus! Don’t you dare touch that steamer. We are roasting today!
Using the same procedure as before, line the asparagus out in a single layer on your roasting pan. Make sure not to have them too close together. They need room to breathe! If they’re too close together, they’ll steam. Remember the sadness and tears that will cause? Don’t make me cry. We want caramelizing and optimum flavor building to take place. Like your teenager who is becoming increasingly independent, give those things some space!
Give them a generous drizzle of olive oil, then a hearty helping of salt and pepper and they’re ready. Sometimes to give an extra burst of freshness, I like to liven things up with a squirt of lemon juice. You’d be surprised how a squeeze from one wedge of lemon will brighten up the party. Give it a try, but don’t go overboard.
Now put those asparagus into a pre-heated 425 degree oven and leave them alone. Let them develop their flavor undisturbed for about 10 minutes, then give them a check. They may need a little shuffling. Let them go for about 5 more minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus.
Now you’re ready to eat! When they’re finished, they’ll look like this:
Again, the brown you see there is pure flavor! When you roast asparagus, it will take on a nutty type of flavor profile. The tops will get all crispy and crunchy. The flavor will be totally transformed and amplified. Asparagus cooked this way will stand up nicely to your favorite steak or seafood. It’s ready to eat just the way it is. By the way, this doesn’t have to be dinner food. Feel free to serve it up with your scrambled eggs in the morning. It can make a wonderful addition to your breakfast!
Now, armed with this new knowledge of how wonderful roasting can be, get into the kitchen and be creative! The possibilities are endless and you just might be able to make a believer out of even the most discriminating of eaters. I’d love to hear your tips and comments on roasting success stories. Leave your comments at the bottom of this blog!
The Taste Bud