One of the best ways to prepare root vegetables is to roast them. Roasting is a dry heat cooking method that uses an open flame, an oven, or other heat source. The beauty of roasting is that it causes caramelization or Maillard browning of the surface of the food, which dramatically enhances the flavor of the food.
The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, and it’s an important method in the preparation and presentation of both vegetables and meats. The chemist Louis-Camille Maillard was the first to describe the method in the 1910's, but roasting has been used since the invention of cooking. As we explored in an earlier article, cooking also increases the nutritional value of plant food and meat by facilitating faster digestion and more efficient extraction of nutrients by the body.
Roasting vegetables is easy. As with all simple preparation methods, roasting is what allows the quality of the produce to shine through. It does not disguise the food like many heavy-handed preparation methods such as deep frying or the addition of heavy sauces do.
Here are some simple tips on how to best roast vegetables. Use high quality fresh (never frozen) root vegetables from the farmers market. Potatoes, carrots, turnips, celery root, red beets, radishes and many others can be used, as well as onions and garlic. Lightly salt the cut vegetables, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, toss the vegetables in a good olive oil and add some fresh herbs like thyme, oregano, or rosemary according to taste.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Distribute the vegetables in a single layer in an oven proof dish. It is very important that the dish is not crowded so that the veggies have space to be exposed evenly to the heat. Take a look at the before and after images to see the distribution.
Roast the vegetables for about 40 minutes, turning them 2 to 3 times while roasting. Near the end of the roasting time watch the vegetables closely so as not to burn them. It might take a couple of tries but once learned this is a most rewarding method of cooking vegetables.
To find high quality veggies come to the Farmers Market, held every Saturday from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. at El Mercado Mall, 712 N. 77 Sunshine Strip in Harlingen