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The oven is pumped. The meat is roasting. As cooks, we often surround it with equally meaty vegetables, sturdy potatoes, carrots and turnips. We repeat the combination because we know it turns out well. Alternatives rarely come to mind. But even in the dead of winter, there’s a variety of veggies available for the side of the plate. We can find baskets of mushrooms, bouquets of cauliflower and broccoli and the stalwart carrots at the grocery.
Mushrooms, roasted, add a depth of flavor to roasted meats. Those space alien-looking ones that appear at this time of year add unexpected texture to salads. Hot, as a topping for toasted French bread, they work as appetizers or as open-faced sandwiches. And a welcome change of partner as a side dish for a roasted chicken.
Cooks mindful of adding fiber to the plate resort to the additional chore of boiling broccoli or cauliflower. Roasting in their own pan beside the meat transforms the flabby results boiling water brings. Cheddar adds an extra dimension of melt-y richness to broccoli. Cauliflower perks up with Sicilian sweet-and-sour, raisins and capers, and a crispy breadcrumb-parsley.
Roasting carrots, the classic American standby in any season, saves the cook an extra pot or skillet to wash. In the oven, the carrots take on a glaze of real maple syrup, a bit of New England, rather than the standard brown sugar.
The recipes below are meant to feed a family of six, but making them in the same amounts adds up to a few good leftovers.
ROASTED WILD MUSHROOMS
Makes 6 servings
Use these hot or cold or at room temperature, incorporated into a salad of robust dark greens such as arugula or spinach (yes, even kale), cheese, roasted peppers, black olives.
2 tablespoons plus 1 additional teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 pounds “meaty” mushrooms (portobello, baby bella, crimini), trimmed
Fresh ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil, dull side up, and coat with 1 teaspoon oil.
Toss together garlic, the 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, rosemary and mushrooms in a small bowl, to coat the mushrooms. Transfer the mushrooms to the sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper all over.
Roast in the preheated oven until mushrooms are tender about, 15 minutes.
ROASTED BROCCOLI AND MELTED CHEDDAR
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1 large head broccoli
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, dull side up. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Trim and cut the broccoli into spears. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Transfer to the heated oven and roast for 15 minutes, until nearly tender.
Meanwhile, toss together the breadcrumbs, cheese, the remaining olive oil and the nutmeg. Remove the broccoli from the oven and sprinkle this mixture over it. Return to the oven for 15 minutes longer, until the topping is melted and golden.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CAPERS AND RAISINS
Makes 8 servings
Use dark or golden raisins in this recipe, but I find that the golden ones seem plumper, juicier, and look a little nicer in this recipe. The white wine vinegar (don’t confuse it with white vinegar, which is only good for cleaning) also looking nicer than a red wine vinegar would, but not everyone has this in the kitchen. If you use the red, it will slightly alter the color of the cauliflower without ruining the flavor.
1 large head of cauliflower (2 pounds), cut into florets, about 2 inches each
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed and set to dry on paper towels
3/4cup fresh coarse breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chicken stock, homemade or purchased
1 teaspoon finely chopped anchovies, optional
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil, dull side up.
Place cauliflower florets on the sheet pans in a single layer; sprinkle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss gently so that the cauliflower is coated.
Roast in the heated oven, 45 minutes, occasionally opening the oven to stir, until cauliflower is golden and crisp.
Heat remaining olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Discard garlic. Add capers; cook stirring 3 minutes longer. Add breadcrumbs to the skillet, tossing to coat. Cook, stirring, until crumbs are golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add chicken stock and anchovies, if using, to the pan. Bring to a boil. Add raisins, vinegar and cook until liquid is nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Transfer cauliflower to a serving bowl. Toss with the raisin mixture. Sprinkle the top with the toasted crumbs and chopped parsley.
MAPLE ROASTED CARROTS
Makes 6 servings
Tender and sweet carrots add color to any roasted meat in drab winter.
1 teaspoon canola oil
6 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin coins
Salt, fresh ground black pepper
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
Preheat oven to 400 F. Coat the bottom of a rimmed sheet pan with oil. Add carrots, salt and pepper, tossing to coat.
Transfer to the oven to roast for 10 minutes. Remove the sheet pan from the oven; drizzle syrup over the carrots, stirring to coat them completely. Return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes, until tender.
Linda Bassett is the author of “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai: Neighborhood Cooking North of Boston.” Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, read her blog at LindABCooks.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @Kitchencall.
Kitchen Call: Try roasting these veggies