Sometimes I wonder if there is a more adaptive approach to the regular feeding requirements of humans. I think of snakes, which get by on one plump, wriggling meal a week; or even dogs, which are beyond thrilled to get two squares a day without a crumb of variation.
In my household, we seem to be constantly filling and depleting the fridge, and every night trying to invent dinner out of the familiar rotation of ingredients. The kids come home from school and have an afternoon snack that lasts until dinner, and then we all awaken in the morning, searching for calories again.
It is not lost on me that for much of human history, we spent a large portion of our energy acquiring food. We built culture, tools, seasonal routines and celebrations around procuring, storing and preparing sustenance. Now, those same human stores of energy and creativity are funneled into the acquisition of money, which is then used to buy food. Some see this as progress; others, as the decline of something honest, meaningful and connected with life.
I generally love being in the command central station of the kitchen, monitoring the aircraft of my family lifting off and then coming in for a snack. However, to cook smarter, there are some small solutions that offer the illusion of foregoing shopping and cooking for at least a minute. One is to fill every slot in the oven with a tray of roasting vegetables, which, when complete, can be warmed and enjoyed plain or dressed up all week. It’s simple: Chop an acre of vegetables, coat them in a barrel of fat, stir and roast. This will result in a stockpile of food that can be parceled out on a busy weekday morning. Add an egg or sausage to roasted vegetables and it’s breakfast; add greens and avocado and it’s a lunch salad; pile on top of rice or stuff in a cheesy tortilla, and that’s dinner.
It’s just as easy to roast one as four trays of vegetables, as the oven and oil do the work. The vegetables keep well in the fridge for days, intensifying in flavor over time, especially with added garlic. Also, there is something about roasting a vegetable that elevates it to its best self. Cauliflower, often boiled to mush, roasted with olive oil, salt and lemon becomes lightly crunchy, flavorful and addictive. Vegetables go in the oven stern and disparate, and come out like one united nation of caramelized and festive people.
Roasted onions can be their own universe of flavor and possibilities. Often, I roast a tray of onions by themselves. So sweet and deeply delicious you may find yourself eating the caramelized squiggles by the handful, placing the empty cookie sheet in oven, uncleaned, for the next onion roast.
And I know you don’t really need a recipe on how to roast vegetables, but maybe just a reminder on how dredging veggies through some oil and putting them in the oven for an hour is a little like you after the weekend – still you, just sweeter and richer and more pleasant.
First, chop vegetables in fairly uniform pieces. Coat with fat (I like to use coconut oil, lard or olive oil) and salt to taste. Place on baking pan at 350 degrees for about 30 to 45 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.
Is there a vegetable you can’t roast? Not sure, but good candidates are winter squash, carrots, beets (which will bleed redness on other vegetables), potatoes, cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, bok choi and cabbage.
For some extra flavor, try these variations:
Squeeze a lemon or lime across vegetables.Add herbs and spices: rosemary, paprika, fennel, cayenne.Add a splash of balsamic vinegar.Add minced or whole garlic. Mix some salsa or adobo sauce into the vegetables.Mix sesame oil, tamari and a splash of maple syrup.Sprinkle grated Parmesan after removing from oven.Rachel Turiel blogs about growing food and a family at 6512 feet at 6512andgrowing.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.