TASTE BUDS

A different way to cook neglected vegetables

Posted June 05, 2012, at 10:54 p.m.
Sandy Oliver
Sandy Oliver

When in doubt, roast. For years when I have been at a loss for what to do with a given vegetable, I’ve roasted it. Well, not lettuce or spinach, but I am seldom at a loss for what to do with them. It has usually been something lurking in the fridge and acting neglected like cauliflower or winter squash or kohlrabi that has stumped me, wanting something just a little different to do with them.

I certainly did not grow up eating roasted vegetables, except for potatoes, which my Aunt Marian tucked under chicken while it roasted in the oven, always a good idea. I love roasted potatoes as much as I love French fries and they are a heck of a lot less messy to produce.

My mom, I am afraid, loved canned vegetables, so a warmed up parade of green beans, peas and corn with the occasional stewed tomatoes accompanied burgers or pork chops. Later, in my adulthood, she discovered steamed broccoli. I cannot remember when I first had roasted vegetables, but I suspect it was sometime in the past quarter century.

I roast even soft vegetables such as asparagus, summer squash and peppers. High heat — 425 degrees — for only 20 minutes or so. Roasting intensifies vegetable flavors and onions, garlic or herbs are good to use along with olive oil.

So here I was with about a half a head of cauliflower, a few carrots, parsnips and an urge to use green beans from the freezer only because I have so many of them, plus some frozen red peppers from last year’s garden. Asparagus is still sprouting up nicely and I had a few stalks of that. This mix, I thought, required a strategy of roasting the hard vegetables first then adding the green beans, asparagus and peppers later to roast for a shorter amount of time.

This fairly promiscuous mix tasted very good. The parsnips’ sweetness was a pleasant little surprise in the mouth next to cauliflower. I don’t expect to replicate this dish anytime soon. The vegetable supply around here simply doesn’t re-occur that way. Don’t expect a formal recipe to follow.

Then there were the leftovers. That was last night’s supper. Roasted vegetables in a cheesy sauce, with sauteed chicken chunks and a decorative pasta — one that looks like a short fat curled tube — boiled up and tossed in. That was good, too.

As long as we are messing with vegetables, I heard recently from my neighbor Marny Heinen about grilled romaine lettuce. I thought she was pulling my chain, but no, you slather the outside of a whole head of romaine in olive oil, and stick it on the grill briefly until it has a slightly charred appearance. “It’s yummy,” she says. I’ll try it sometime soon.

Miscellaneous Roasted Vegetables

Makes flexible number of servings

This is a nonrecipe. Aim for a mix of hard vegetables which you roast together first with onions and garlic in olive or canola oil. Then add some green vegetables plus peppers in red or green (or orange and yellow) for a few more minutes. Sprinkle with a few herbs if you wish. Serve. You can turn this into a dish for one or 20. The leftovers are good as a room temperature salad with or without pasta and salad dressing.

Your choice of the following hard vegetables or whatever you have on hand:

Cauliflower

Carrots

Parsnips

Turnips

Kohlrabi

Fresh green beans

Onion

Garlic

Olive or canola or other vegetable oil

Your choice of softer vegetables:

Broccoli

Frozen green beans

Asparagus

Peas

Green or sweet red bell peppers

Salt and pepper

Dried basil, marjoram, parsley (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the hard vegetables and chop into bite-size pieces. Coarsely chop the onion and finely chop the garlic. Put the vegetables, onion and garlic in a roasting pan and lightly drizzle them with oil. Roast for about fifteen minutes or until they are barely tender. Meanwhile prepare the green vegetables in bite-size pieces, too. Add them to the already-roasting vegetables, sprinkle with the optional dried herbs and roast for additional five to 10 minutes, or longer if you prefer.

Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. Email: sandyoliver47@gmail.com. For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number. And make sure to check out her blog at tastebuds.bangordailynews.com.

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