Roasted Vegetables…and Fruit
That’s right, fruit.
Here is one of my Rules of Thumb: If there is a technique that works for one thing, it might work on other things. If you can roast wedges of potato you can probably roast beets, yams, celery, carrots, rutabagas, brussel sprouts, or onions. If you can roast a mushroom you can also roast tomatoes, pears, apples, persimmons, a pineapple, blueberries, eggplant, or fennel bulb.
This rule of thumb doesn’t always work, but there is such great insight to be gained from things that bomb! Don’t be afraid to flop. That is another Rule of Thumb. I’ll start keeping track of these little rules.
The mixing of sweet and savory, especially the roasting of veggies and fruit, was not an accidental tidbit caught in a passing conversation, it was one of the basic concepts of what I learned working for Lenny Russo at the Loring Cafe in Minneapolis. Roasting and grilling fruits, cooking fresh or dried fruits with meats and stews—it’s an old concept, and yet another method that I adopted as a staple in my cooking.
Roasted fruit becomes a little savory, and the savory items, like onions, become sweet. Caramelization at its best! Everything becomes more rich, more deep and intensified. Perfect for fall.
above photos by David Cavagnaro
About Roasting: A light coating of oil, salt and pepper is a great beginning. I use a medium high heat for the oven, around 375 degrees. Flip the items occasionally so they don’t burn or stick, and rotate the pan in the oven to account for hot spots.
Dense vegetables and strong flavored veggies take approximately 1 hour to roast if sliced.
Examples: potatoes (not russets), beets, celery, onions, leeks, garlic cloves, rutabagas, yams, and carrots.
Russets are not recommended for roasting because of their high starch content. But they are, of course, great for baking whole.
Softer vegetables and fruits need around 30 minutes to roast.
Examples: mushrooms, pears, apples, plums, green beans, eggplant, and fennel.
Sometimes a dense vegetable can be dry or old, and instead of cooking in the oven, it becomes rubbery. Pour a little water, wine or apple juice onto the sheet pan to help steam it, even as the roasting process works to dehydrate it.
It’s time for a Prep Trick….
Par-boil (partially boil) the more dense vegetables, then slice and roast them. This is great when you have limited time right before the meal— prep them earlier in the day, then roast for only 30 minutes when needed. Warning—this pre-cooking doesn’t work with the softer vegetables!
Please oh please check on the vegetables while they are roasting, don’t rely solely on ‘suggested cooking times’. A new potato will roast at a different rate than an old potato—the aging process changes ratios of water, sugars and starches. Another Rule of Thumb: Trust your senses!
The vegetables, amounts and cooking times in this recipe are only a place to begin—adapt it.
Roasted Vegetables and Fruit with Cider Syrup Vinaigrette
Prep time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-Slice all the vegetables and fruit in a similar way, with similar thickness:
1 Potato (anything but a russet)
4 Stalks Celery
-In a bowl, toss them with canola or olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you may want (i.e. oregano, paprika, granulated garlic)
-Spread vegetables on a cookie sheet, and roast approximately 30 minutes.
-Prep the other ‘soft’ veggies during this time.
-Flip the dense-potato-veggies and roast another 30 minutes, and put in the second set of veggies for the last 30 minutes.
-Toss with canola or olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl:
1/2 lb Mushrooms
1 Fennel Bulb
1 Pear or Plum
-Roast for approximately 30 minutes. Flip them at some point.
-Toss all roasted buddies together.
-Drizzle with Cider Syrup Vinaigrette.
On a bed of millet and rice.
On a bed of arugula or salad greens.
Topped with little balls of chevre (soft goat cheese) rolled in fresh herbs.