3.09.2012

Roasted Vegetables

Prior to 2000, I consumed roasted vegetables exclusively at Chicago's now defunct Bistro 110. Their potatoes, carrots, and onions blew away mom's microwaved vegetables like nobody's business. The Bistro's ultra-cool location, just off Chicago's Magnificent Mile, only added to the allure. After all, we're talking circa 1990.

Those vegetables sparked much discussion. How does one achieve such miraculous flavor? What is this "roasting" the waitress speaks of? Takes longer than nuking, that was for sure. Therefore impossible to replicate at home. We were still eating cereal for dinner, you see.

Fast forward to my improving period, maybe 2005-ish. Gayle offers to bring roasted vegetables to an impromptu dinner gathering at our house. There she was in the doorway, tray filled with slightly browned broccoli florets and friends. Impossible dream!

I quizzed her on the process. "You need a hot, hot oven, 425 or 450. Cut everything small, the same size. Olive oil, drizzled, salt and pepper. Take 'em out when they sizzle. Delicious!"

Now for actual directions.


Recipe

Absolutely try Gayle's method (425 oven). The vegetables will cook super fast (not always a bad thing). If you own a toaster oven (highly recommended for people with one regular oven) try roasting at 400 (its small size causes faster cooking).

Or try this.

Preheat oven to 375. Why a lower temperature than previously mentioned? I think vegetable combos cook more evenly on a lower oven.

Grab a baking sheet with sides or a shallow casserole dish.

Cauliflower: Trash the leaves. Chop off and trash the core (part holding it together). Cut the florets away from the stalks, pull apart or chop into 2 inch pieces (no tape measure, just go for it). Chop stalks into little cubes. Into the dish they go.

Broccoli: Chop a touch larger than the cauliflower and carrots because they cook fast. Leave the thin stems attached to the florets. Cut the outer 1/2 inch of the fat stalks to reveal the inner section. It's quite tasty. So chop it into cubes. Into the dish...

Carrots: Peel and cut in half lengthwise, then again so there's 4 quarters. Chop into one inch pieces. Toss in with the others.

As not to overwhelm, I'll stop here. However vegetables of any color and background are welcome and celebrated. Onions, sweet peppers, parsnips (have I gone too far?)...just heed chopping size.

Now for the oh-so-specific olive oil drizzle. Do not pour from the bottle. That's how accidents happen. Measure 1-2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil into a ramekin, little bowl, whatever. Then drizzle onto the veggies. Use your hands to mix until they're nice and shiny. If needed add more oil, one tablespoon at a time. (You can also add a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar, but I suggest acing the basics first.)

Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons dried herbs like oregano, thyme, and/or sage (or be adventurous and use Herbs de Provence! Google it...). Gently toss using a spoon.

Is the oven preheated? If so place your dish on the middle rack. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven to stir. How to they look? Taste a carrot. Almost done? I like everything slightly browned so even if it seems somewhat cooked continue roasting another 10 minutes.

After removing the dish from the oven sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon (or so) sea salt (or whatever you have) and a few turns of fresh ground pepper.

Roasting achieved. The folks at Bistro 110 would be proud.

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