Remember my foodie friend, Angie? She changed my relationship with vegetables forever, and helped me get crazy healthy, when she taught me how to roast brussel sprouts.
It was 2003. I was a new vegetarian, and desperately wanted to learn how to eat more vegetables. Angie gave me the perfect opportunity one night at dinner, when she exclaimed (in her amazingly charming foodie way) the she absolutely LOVES roasted brussel sprouts. I told her I had never had brussel sprouts, and asked her how she prepares them.
She told me it was soooo easy:
1) cut them in half,
2) toss with oil*,
3) season with salt and pepper, and
4) roast at 400 degrees, until they turn bright green, and edges start to brown (about 15 minutes).
So, I tried it. And of course, Angie was right. I loved them. Angie’s roasting technique was so simple, that I decided to experiment with other vegetables: sweet potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, and carrots. I had to play with the temperatures a bit, and learned that denser, thicker vegetables (such as potatoes) can be roasted at 425 degrees, but thinner veggies (asparagus, for example) are better at 375 degrees.
I also found that it is really important, for thorough cooking, to make sure that veggies are sliced to approximately the same size. And, of course, the smaller the slices, and the bigger the roasting pan, the faster they cook.
It took a few months to master my roasting technique, but once I got it down, I found it a lot easier to stick to a nutrient dense diet. After a while, I got curious about other veggies, such as eggplant, rutabaga, zucchini, and parsnips. Sure enough, Angie’s simple roasting technique worked for these foods as well.
More recently, I have discovered that spices and sweeteners can also be added before roasting certain vegetables. I use the basic roasting technique, plus the following flavorings:
- maple syrup or honey with brussel sprouts and green beans
- garlic with sweet potatoes and broccoli
- rosemary with all kinds of potatoes
- thyme with parsnips and rutabaga
- apple cider vinegar with turnips, cauliflower, and carrots
It’s also fun to roast complementary veggies together, such as parsnips, rutabaga, and carrots, or broccoli and cauliflower. Just make sure they have similar cooking times, or you’ll end up burning part of your meal! The Whole Foods website, and epicurious.com are great resources for inspiration.
The more time I spent experimenting with roasted veggies, the more I learned to prefer roasting to all other cooking methods. It’s simple–cut, toss, season, roast–and always produces great results.
My advice: if you’re not already roasting veggies on a regular basis, make it a new habit. As far as I can tell, there’s no such thing as too many veggies in this crazy healthy life.
*Olive oil can turn toxic above 250 degrees, so it’s always best to use a high smoke point oil, such as grapeseed, sunflower, or safflower, for roasting.