Here in the South, we’ll put sauce or gravy on just about anything. If you’ve got a meal, we can top it with barbecue sauce, comeback sauce, hot sauce, sawmill gravy, butter bean gravy, red eye gravy, tomato gravy…the list goes on and on. It forgives a cheap cut of meat or a bland plateful of whatever you’ve got. Sometimes though, less is more. Growing vegetables at home means easy access to produce bursting with fresh flavor that needs no coverup. When the crops come in, it’s time to break out the roasting pan and leave the sauces in the pantry.
What makes roasting vegetables so effective in bringing out the native goodness in fresh veggies? As with dried fruits, vegetables and meats, it’s about moisture. This is another one of those occasions when less is more. Less moisture equals more flavor. Reducing the water content in vegetables by roasting at high temperatures intensifies the flavor and also caramelizes the natural sugars, adding color, sweetness and texture.
Starchy vegetables like potatoes, squash and carrots are obvious choices for roasting, but many, if not most, of your backyard bounty can benefit from the dry heat of roasting. Roasting broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower may leave one wondering why steaming is the more common cooking method. Brussels sprouts and peppers are popular for roasting. Now give tomatoes a try. Even leafy greens like kale, spinach or lettuce will explode with flavor.
Try them one at a time or mix and match for a side dish so good you may promote it to main course. There is one element of roasting in which less is not more, though. Roasting the moisture out of garden vegetables will reduce their size by as much as 50 percent. Make more than you think you’ll need, but give them plenty of space on the tray to allow even cooking.
Here’s how to do it:
- Chop about 4 cups of vegetables into uniform size and place in a glass bowl.
- Toss with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and a tablespoon of selected herbs (thyme, dill or rosemary are good choices).
- Spread out on a lipped baking sheet and roast 30 minutes at 475 degrees for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on vegetables selected.
- Turn vegetables every 10 minutes and check for doneness.
- Once vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, remove from oven and serve hot.