Getting Started: Roasting Vegetables

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Roasting is a great choice for cooking during the fall and winter. Winter crops - gourds like squashes and pumpkin, root crops like sweet potatoes and beets, and leaf crops like Brussels sprouts and broccoli take well to it and the results are a warming addition to the plate. Perhaps best of all every vegetable requires the same eight easy steps. Here they are:
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees
  2. Make bite-sized approximately square/cube-shaped pieces of the vegetable
  3. Place one layer of vegetable pieces in a roasting pan, skillet, or triple sheet of aluminum foil. Use multiple pans or roast in batches if you have more than one layer of vegetables.
  4. Toss the vegetables with enough oil to lightly coat (usually 1 or 2 tablespoons) and arrange again into one layer.
  5. If you wish, sprinkle with salt and/or a favorite blend of herbs and spices.
  6. Tent the pan with foil and place in oven
  7. Test for doneness every 10 to 15 minutes (more frequently as the vegetables get closer to being done) by pricking a piece (one piece is enough since all pieces are the same size and in one layer) with a small sharp knife (like a paring knife). The vegetables are nearly done when the knife goes in and out easily and/or they start giving off that familiar roasted smell.
  8. If you like your roast vegetables crispy, remove the tent for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.
I'm not giving cooking times for different vegetables and instead suggesting testing for doneness every 10 to 15 minutes because there are two variables I can't account for, your oven and the size of the pieces. In fact, if there is one general takeaway from this exercise it is that oven times in recipes will almost always need adjusting. My convection oven, for instance, often takes 20% less time than most recipes specify and a 1/4 inch potato piece cooks as much as 50% faster than a 1 inch piece. Instead, the first time you cook a vegetable, I suggest noting the the size of the pieces and the total time it takes to roast. This is a bit of a drag on multi-tasking, so I try a vegetable for the first time as a snack.

Every subsequent time you roast that vegetable, cut into that size, in that oven, you can skip checking for doneness until you are 10 minutes shy of the total time you noted (for crispy, remember to remove the tent 5 to 10 minutes before they are done). Likewise I suggest using separate pans or batches for different vegetables unless you already know they cook for the same amount of time. Soon you will be tossing, arranging, popping in the oven and setting the timer, leaving you free to work on the rest of a meal. Easy!

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