Wintertime is the best time for oven roasted vegetables. Winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery root, sunchokes, parsnips and carrots each make for simple, healthy and delicious dinner sides. While the process of trimming, tossing with olive oil and salt and popping in the oven couldn’t be easier, I’ve got tips to help you get the best results.
Plus, I’m sharing two great “non-recipe” recipes for insanely tasty potatoes and delicata squash. Read on!
1. Cut individual vegetables all to the same size – When roasting, there is wiggle room in the length of time it takes for veggies to be done. You may prefer them a bit al dente, or perhaps you like them meltingly soft. Either is totally fine, it’s completely up to you- what you decidedly don’t want to serve is one large, underdone chunk, next to a small shriveled up piece that has spent too long blasted by the heat. To ensure that they are uniform in texture, cut the vegetable that you are roasting to the same size.
2. Different vegetables have different cooking times – If you are roasting two different vegetables at the same time, know that roast timing varies by the cut size, as well as by the density of the particular veggie. For instance, celery root takes much longer to soften than butternut squash. If you wish to roast these two separate veggies and have them finish in the same elapsed time, cut the celery root in cubes half the size of the squash. If you are concerned about gauging timing, you can roast the vegetables on opposite sides of the pan, or on different pans altogether.
3. Give them enough space – Crowded vegetables will not only take forever to roast, they will release steam resulting in a mushy texture. With appropriate space, a dry heat will allow veggies to roast up with a golden crisp. If you are concerned that your veggies may be too close together, separate over two sheets.
4. Season the vegetables before they go in – Toss them with a good amount of extra virgin olive oil, and plenty of kosher salt and black pepper. At this point you could also toss them with other dry seasonings, such as cumin, paprika, dried oregano, cinnamon, etc. To save from washing extra dishes- toss the vegetables directly on the sheet pan, iron skillet or baker- as opposed to first mixing in a bowl.
5. Make a seasoning liquid to add at the end – The long, intense heat of the oven can cause certain seasonings, such as chopped garlic or fresh herbs, to get overcooked, or worse, burnt, during roasting. Instead, consider combining your seasonings in a pinch bowl, and toss with your vegetables during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Garlic, herbs, citrus juices, honey or maple syrup, or a splash of vinegar, or grated parmigiano are all great ideas for helping to zest up your veggies.
6. Timing and temperature – Roasting vegetables is not an exact science. Though as long as you check in on them, they are hard to mess up. Variables such as humidity and altitude play a role, as well as, of course, the roasting vessel, the size of the cut, and the density and water content of the vegetable you are roasting. Typically I roast at 375 F, though as low as times as 325 F and as high as 450 F (e.g. for green beans or broccoli, where I prefer a shorter roasting time with a little char). Check on your veggies every once in a while, give them a stir, and adjust the heat if they are browning too quickly, or not quickly enough. Use your judgment.
Smoky Roasted Fingerlings
One of our family’s most favorite and most simple roasted veggie side is fingerling potatoes with smoked paprika, lots of garlic and a splash of sherry vinegar.
Cut the potatoes into 1-inch pieces and toss with extra virgin olive oil to coat, and about a teaspoon of kosher salt per 1 ½ pounds. Roast at 375 F, stirring or shaking the pan a few times, until softened and browned. Combine 4 finely chopped or grated garlic cloves, a teaspoon of smoked paprika, and two teaspoons of sherry vinegar together, then stir into the potatoes. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, then remove from the oven and serve hot.
Optional herb additions are chopped rosemary or sage. Make sure to taste for seasoning, and add more salt if needed, and fresh black pepper.
Sweet & Savory Delicata Squash
Because of it’s small size and softer flesh, delicata squash is a great weeknight option as it cooks up quickly. Bonus, it’s skin is completely edible, and does not need to be peeled.
Cut two medium-to-large squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, then cut across into half moons. Place on a baking sheet and toss with extra virgin olive oil to coat and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. Roast at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, shaking or stirring once or twice.
While roasting, combine a squeeze of orange juice (about 2 tablespoons), a tablespoon of pure maple syrup, a ¼ teaspoon cumin, ⅛ teaspoon allspice, and a teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary. Pour this over the squash during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove from the oven and serve as is, or let cool and toss into a salad.
Optional, but very tasty, garnishes are pomegranate seeds, toasted pistachios, and feta.