Roasting and Grilling Farmers’ Market Vegetable Mélanges
Have you felt the weather starting to change? It’s just a little cooler in the evenings. I take Luke out back to toss the ball just before dinner, and we have been stopping to linger for a few minutes – the furnace of summer is cooling down. I sit in the Adirondack chair with a glass of wine and a section of the paper, he lolls in the grass, happily smelling all he surveys. The osprey pair has been doing a lot of fishing, and commentating raucously throughout the day. The geese are beginning to move through. And wasn’t that Harvest Moon a sight to behold?
There are still lots of veggies available at the various farmers’ markets around us. And while I think we have flipped the last burger of summer, there are some flavorful grilled and roasted vegetable meals ahead of us. I like the comic strip Mutts and its advocacy of meatless Mondays (although I slip up sometimes and do a spaghetti carbonara with bacon some weeks…) and any of these flavorful vegetable dishes would qualify. This weekend we’ll grill the veggies, and on Monday I will roast some more in the oven.
For grilling the vegetables outdoors there are some easy peasy rules to follow:
1. Grease them up: vegetables will dry out when they are heated without a little oil. Before grilling, toss them lightly with smackeral of oil.
2. Know your vegetables: some cook in the wink of an eye and others will take longer. Dense vegetables such as potatoes require the longest cooking times. To prevent burning, sear vegetables first over a high heat, then move them to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking. Or parboil them first and just give them a few minutes on the grill to get some color and those yummy grill marks on the outside
3. Use a skewer or a basket: cherry tomatoes are great grilled, but they’re a little unruly. It is best to skewer roly poly tomatoes or tiny little red potatoes, or use a basket: fewer vegetables falling onto the coals, or off the grill into Luke’s eagerly awaiting maw.
4. Yes, size does matter. If you want the vegetables to cook quickly, chop and slice accordingly. Thin rounds of onion, with more surface area, will cook more quickly than fat wedges.
5. Try cooking in foil: if you don’t feel like babysitting your vegetables cook them in foil packets instead. This method works great for the dense vegetables and ears of corn. Unfurl a large piece of aluminum foil, lightly spray the surface with cooking oil and arrange sliced vegetables a single layer, slightly overlapping. Fold up into a nice neat little foil envelope and then place on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 12 to 15 minutes, for potatoes). This way you can toss the ball for Luke for a few minutes and he will be forever grateful.
That was outside grilling – now for roasting inside: one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables is roasting. I hate vegetables that have been boiled into oblivion. Roasting at a high heat converts a plain vegetable into a delicious caramelized treat.
You can roast any type of vegetable you want with this basic recipe. Adjust the amount of oil you use accordingly. We’ve roasted asparagus, garlic, squash, broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, corn, carrots, zucchini, you name it.
Roasted Veggie Mélange
1.Preheat oven to 450° F.
2.Toss all the vegetables together in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3.Divide the vegetables among two cookie sheets – mine have sides, for less spillage. Put fast cooking vegetables together, and group the slow cookers likewise. Few headaches!
4.Roast vegetables for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
The vegetables cook quickly — some vegetables may take only 15 to 20 minutes — but they still have a chance to brown nicely on the outside by the time they become tender inside. So keep an eye on them. Carmelized onions are one thing, blackened and incinerated are another.
It’s very important that you cut the vegetables in pieces of about the same size. Unevenly sized pieces won’t roast and brown in the same amount of time, and you’ll end up with both over roasted and under roasted vegetables. And if you have any fussy eaters, you won’t be able to persuade them to enjoy the rich roasted flavors of fall.
And here is some more inspiration for you – this week Mark Bittman of the New York Times wrote about some new restaurants in London where he has had some exquisite meals: “If you can get past all the glitter, you will find vegetables treated as respectfully as animals. Planks of sweetly caramelized roasted celeriac are served with walnuts, onions and greens, and though one would hardly argue that these are as killer as the wood-grilled rib-eye (served with chimichurri, which is the new pesto, I guess), they are plenty satisfying. Chargrilled Ibérico pork with collards and roasted garlic is difficult to write about without my mouth watering. A starter of roasted cauliflower in mayonnaise is sadly no longer on the menu. Grilled octopus with eggplant is, however, and I would grab that.” Now I am starving! How about you?
“An onion can make people cry but there’s never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.”