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I would eat my tank top if it was caramelized. But I’d rather eat golden roasted vegetables.
Have you ever experienced mind-blowingly memorable vegetables in a good restaurant, and wondered why you have such a hard time mimicking them at home?
I’m here to tell you that it’s all about the heat.
Well, I take that back. It’s also about giving the veggies some space, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The more comfortable that I have grown in the kitchen, the more I’ve learned to be bold with my choices. Whether that involves tossing an extra pat of butter into the skillet, or cranking up my oven with no regard for the fact that I’ll likely set off the fire alarm, I’ve discovered that riskier moves sometimes result in better food.
Let me explain.
It’s a common misconception that veggies should be cooked in the oven at around 350°F. And this is a huge mistake.
Chicken, sure, I get it. But once you understand how the caramelization process works, you and your oven will be singing a different, higher-pitched and significantly hotter tune.
The higher the temp, the easier it is for the sugars to brown and release their delicious, nutty flavor. The sweet spot is somewhere between 400 and 450°F.
For me, 425°F is the ticket.
Now that we’ve talked temp, let’s chat about color.
The crunchy, charred edges on roasted veggies make all the difference. I find that giving them a quick sojourn under the broiler helps enhance that feature, but there’s also something to be said for giving everybody a little space.
Do the words, “Don’t crowd the mushrooms,” mean anything to you?
If not, I suggest you stream stream Julie & Julia on Amazon Prime Video (or pull out your DVD copy if you’re a fan like me). The scene where Amy Adams realizes that the mushrooms don’t brown if they’re squished together in the pan changed the way I looked at cooking in 2009.
As Julia Child explains, the more you crowd your ingredients, the less likely you are to actually cross that caramelization finish line.
That magic happens when things roast, and this is achieved by allowing for some space around each morsel, maximizing surface contact with the pan. If they’re jumbled together, they’re going to steam instead.
I think we’re all familiar with the act of throwing together a quick tray of roasted veggies for a side dish in a pinch. Root vegetables are classics for this cooking method – crunchy radishes, sweet carrots, crispy potatoes, and so on. But the next time you want a truly impressive side dish, you’re going to want to see what happens when you chill those golden-brown nuggets, and make them the star of a tasty salad.
You barely even need a dressing for this salad, since the vegetables are already coated in fruity olive oil and perfumed with the savory taste of roasted garlic, aka my favorite air freshener..
I also like a hint of thick, aged and reduced balsamic vinegar for some tang, but the regular stuff also works like a charm.
To balance the smokiness of the lightly charred veggies, grassy parsley and fresh, aromatic basil tossed in at the end bring subtle fragrant notes that will make your taste buds tango. I like to serve my chilled salad on a bed of greens for a contrast of color and crunch, but I am also equally happy enjoying them solo.
Since it’s always better to have more, I double up on this recipe if I’m having a dinner party, and it’s easy to find a dozen uses for the leftovers. I toss them with cooked bowties (the noodle, not the accessory) for a quick pasta salad, stuff them into omelets, and have even pureed them to thicken a soup or two.
Who knew cold veggies could be so irresistibly charming?Print
Bold roasted veggies – like earthy eggplant, savory garlic, and crunchy radishes – take center stage in this vibrant salad, combined with fresh herbs.
- 1 small eggplant, unpeeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
- 1 small yellow summer squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 small zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 large red onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 small bunch radishes, stemmed and halved (big ones quartered)
- 1 small head garlic, top trimmed to expose the cloves
- 1 small bunch baby carrots (preferably multi-colored), peeled and cut into bite-sized half-moons
- 3 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thickly sliced
- 1 small sweet potato, cut into bite-sized wedges
- 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic vinegar, divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rough chopped fresh basil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rough chopped fresh parsley
- 1 small head butter lettuce, or other greens for serving (optional)
- ¼ cup shaved Parmesan (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Arrange eggplant on a plate lined with paper towels, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt to remove excess water and any bitterness. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, then rub dry with paper towels to remove the excess moisture and salt.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, red onion, radishes, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, and sweet potato. Toss with 6 tablespoons oil, black pepper, and the remaining salt..
- Arrange the veggies in a single layer on several rimmed baking sheets. Roast for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden and tender.
- Adjust your oven rack to about 4 inches below the broiler, and turn the broiler on low heat.
- Keeping a close eye on the oven, broil the veggies until they’re caramelized and the edges begin to darken, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- The garlic cloves should be entirely golden, but if they seem underdone, return the oven to 425°F, wrap the entire head in foil, and put the head of garlic back in the oven for several more minutes, until the cloves are soft and lightly browned all over.
- Allow the veggies to come to room temperature, and then transfer to a bowl and cover. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
- Pushing from the bottom of the roasted garlic head, squeeze out the cloves, and add them back to the bowl of veggies. Toss the roasted chilled veggies with the remaining tablespoon of oil, 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and the basil and parsley.
- Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve as is, or over fresh greens with shaved Parmesan. Garnish with the remaining balsamic.
- Category: Salads
- Method: Roasting
- Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keywords: roasted vegetables, fresh herbs, eggplant, garlic
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Preheat Your Oven and Salt the Eggplant
Get out all of your ingredients. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Arrange the eggplant on a plate lined with paper towels, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. This will help to draw out excess water, and to remove any bitterness.
Allow the eggplant to sit for at least 30 minutes, and then rub each piece dry with paper towels, to remove the moisture and salt.
To speed up this process, place another paper towel on top of the eggplant and top with something heavy like a cast iron pan. This will also help press out even more moisture.
Step 2 – Prep and Chop Vegetables and Herbs
Chop the yellow squash, zucchini, red onion, radishes, carrots, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes into bite-sized pieces with a roughly even thickness.
Trim the top of the garlic head off so that the cloves are exposed.
Rough chop the basil and parsley.
Step 3 – Dress and Season Veggies and Roast
In a large mixing bowl, add the eggplant, squash, zucchini, red onion, radishes, garlic, carrots, mushrooms, and sweet potato, and toss with 6 tablespoons of the oil, the remaining salt, and the black pepper.
On several rimmed baking sheets, arrange the veggies in a single layer and roast for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden and tender.
Step 4 – Broil Until Caramelized
Adjust your oven rack to about 4 inches below the broiler, and set the broiler to low heat.
Keeping a close eye on them, broil the veggies until they’re caramelized and the edges begin to darken, about 3-5 minutes. Depending on the heat of your broiler, this may take several minutes longer. But don’t walk away and do something else while they’re broiling – you don’t want them to burn!
Keep an eye on the top of the garlic as well, to make sure it doesn’t burn.
To test if the cloves are done, use a paring knife to remove one of the cloves. It should be golden brown and very tender.
If the top is dark but the bottom seems undercooked, return the oven to 425°F, wrap the entire head in foil, and place it back in the oven for several more minutes, until the cloves are soft and lightly browned all over.
Step 5 – Cool, Then Chill
Allow the veggies and garlic to come to room temperature, and transfer the veggies to a bowl.
Pushing from the bottom, squeeze out the garlic cloves, roughly chop any large pieces, add them to the bowl of veggies, and stir to combine.
Cover and refrigerate the garlic-veggie mixture until chilled, for at least 1 hour. The longer you can wait, the more the flavors will have time to meld and come together, so making this dish a day or two ahead of time will only increase the flavor.
Step 6 – Add Garlic, Prep Garnish, and Dress Salad
Using a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmesan into short ribbons.
Toss the roasted, chilled veggies with the remaining tablespoon of oil, 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and the basil and parsley. Season to taste for additional salt and pepper, and then serve over fresh greens with the shaved Parmesan on top, and garnished with the remaining few drops of balsamic.
This salad may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Veg Out, Caramelize, and Chill
Once you learn how to correctly roast a vegetable, salads can become way more interesting, opening doors of delight to you as an eater.
And it doesn’t just stop at chilled side dishes. The leftover possibilities for this produce masterpiece are never-ending. From roasted veggie quesadillas to meatballs to pizza toppings, you’ll never run out of ways to make use of these sweet goodies.
Now that I’ve revved you up about roasting, check out these other recipes that show you how to treat your veggies right:
- Spicy Roasted Vegetable Soup
- Sesame Sage Roasted Vegetables with Barley
- Simple Go-To Roasted Broccoli
I dig salty strips of Parmesan with my chilled roasted veggies, but the combos are up to you. Crumbled goat? Briny feta? Share your cheesy favorites with me in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on March 19, 2013. Last updated: October 12, 2019 at 8:15 am.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”