The accolades reserved for those individuals who have mastered the “art” of perfectly roasting a whole chicken, should be equally handed out to those individuals who choose to perfectly roast trays of vegetables instead.
Looking at the cover of Alison Roman’s “nothing fancy” (no caps because caps are fancy), I would much rather see her signature red nails gently caressing a plate of perfectly golden roasted veggies instead of a whole roasted chicken. As a vegan, I want people to be wowed by my Sunday-roasted veggies in the the same manner, and to be impressed as my bitten-down un-manicured fingers gently caress a sheet pan of char-kissed winter produce.
And really the task is pretty much the same, minus the slaughter. Take something that requires little preparation, bake it in a timely manner, and serve it to those who assume that the task was way more difficult than it actually was. “Really, it was nothing,” you say, “I just tossed them it in the oven. Truly. They practically cooked themselves,” showing equal parts humility and honesty
Vegetables come in all shapes, sizes and colors (as if that needed to be said), and the task of perfectly roasting them requires little more than a hot oven, and an attention to the firmness of the vegetables that you are roasting. If they share a similar density, they will most likely share a similar cooking time, so long as they are placed in the oven while they are the same general size and shape.
Potatoes, winter squash, carrots, turnips,and even Brussels sprouts, so long as they are cut into similar sizes will cook in about the same amount of time. That’s not to say that things that are less dense, like summer squash, zucchini, or even tomatoes can’t be cooked alongside firmer produce, there just may be a drastic textural difference when all vegetables, or fruits as they may be, are finished roasting.
For this dish, I recommend going with the firmer varieties. Mostly because I’m writing this on the cusp of fall and winter, and I’ve yet to have my fill of winter squash, Brussels sprouts and turnips, which seem to show up this time of year.
A baking sheet is the best cooking surface for this particular job. It’s easy to maneuver the vegetables around to toss and turn them as they cook, but it’s also a good size to spread out a variety of vegetables in a single layer, without them overlapping, while still getting a decent serving of them cooking at once.
Oven temperature is subjective, depending on your comfort level, and the attention you are willing to pay to your vegetables. Obviously they will take longer to cook if the temperature is lower, say in the 375 F. range, but there is also less of a chance that you will accidentally burn them if your attention is required elsewhere.
Depending on my mood, and even the density at which I have filled my baking sheet, I will often shoot for between 425 and 450. The benefit of a higher temperature is the quickness and the increased chances for caramelization. The downfall is that I need to stick around to turn them once our twice in their 40 to 50 minute cook time, and keep an eye on them as the time passes to avoid them going past being kissed with a bit of char, and being burnt.
Peel anything that needs to be peeled, but if you’re using organic produce, items like kabocha squash, turnips, and even sweet potatoes can be left with their skin on. Cut everything into about ¾ to 1 inch pieces. Add everything to the baking sheet as you chop to make sure you’re getting a good variety, and that your ingredients are not overlapping.
Drizzle with a few glugs of olive oil and a bit of maple syrup. Liberally salt and pepper before tossing everything together with your hands.
For the longest time, I did everything I could to prevent food from sticking to a pot or a pan or a baking dish, but now I long for that contact and that tension that could help crisp-up the veggies and add a bit more flavor via co
When roasting veggies like this, I do not use parchment paper or Silpat. I want the veggies to have direct contact with the pan, to where I might even have to work a bit to pry they crispy bits off of the bottom. The oil will help with both.
Check your veggies after about 20 minutes, and give them a good toss around. Check them again in another 10.
Your eyes and your mouth are the best judge of doneness. Are the edges of the vegetable browned? When you taste a couple, are they tender-crisp? Do you want to go back in for another? And then another?
Somewhere in the middle of the vegetable cook time, put a pot of water or broth on the stove, with about a cup and a half or two cups of water. You’ll want an equal amount of couscous as well. Season the water, or broth until it’s quite flavorful, knowing that they flavor will muted slightly from the couscous.
Just as it reaches a boil, add a knob of vegan butter, or a glug of olive oil. Turn off the heat, and then add the dry couscous. Stir with a fork and then cover with a lid, and ignore it until the vegetables are roasted.
Find a bowl that can be lidded and add about a cup of yogurt (my recipe for vegan yogurt is HERE). Garlic and dill are subjective in this recipe, but add more than you might think you should. Add a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice; stir and then taste. Adjust by adding more lemon juice, more salt, or more of everything. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Remove the crispy veggies from the oven. Toss the couscous with a fork (and only a fork). Stir the yogurt back to life.
Find a large bowl or plate, and pile on your couscous. Top with an almost equal amount of roasted veggies, and then a few good spoonfuls of yogurt. The couscous will absorb the flavors from the veggies, and quite a bit of the yogurt, so leave the bowl within arm’s reach while devouring.
Leftovers can be warmed and reassembled, or you could combine the couscous, roasted veggies, and yogurt sauce and serve it as a chilled salad.