The Easiest, Tastiest Way to Cook Almost Any Vegetable

(placeholder) credit: Forrest Clonts)

In our home, roasted vegetables are known as “Aunt Virginia-style,” because my sister-in-law makes them that way (as do I), my kids love eating them at her house (not sure why mine is any different), and she is the best mom ever (I’m a close second). Her name, in case it wasn’t obvious, is Virginia. Regardless of what you call them, roasted vegetables are a delicious, easy addition to any meal!

(placeholder) credit: Forrest Clonts)

As we prepared our vegetables, I learned something new: Our photographer for this series, Forrest Clonts, is also an accomplished cook, an experienced knife sharpener, a fan of local food, and the grandson of a farmer. When he saw us cutting off the ends of the asparagus, he was surprised. Did I know that I could just snap off the ends of the asparagus, and that the break would happen easily, right where it should? Nope, I did not. So my son and I both learned something new. Thanks, Forrest!

(placeholder) credit: Forrest Clonts)

Roasting vegetables can be a game changer for people who don’t like vegetables. Maybe it’s the slight caramelizing, maybe it’s because they get a little crispy, or maybe it’s the added fat. Who knows? But I do know that one of the biggest vegetable fans I know — a man here in South Carolina who started an all-local farmers market and has been local produce’s biggest supporter — did not like okra. You can’t love South Carolina produce without loving okra. That’s just a fact. Anyhow, I taught him my method, and his life changed. Roasted okra never makes it to the table in my house. We eat it up like French fries.

I hope my son will learn to buy what’s on sale, and what he likes, without worrying about elaborate preparation. Rather than teaching him how to roast every single vegetable, I gave him a list of tips.

10 Tips for Roasting Vegetables

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 to 450°F. The higher temperature will let the vegetables caramelize, which is part of what makes them so good.
  2. Chop or slice your vegetables. The smaller and thinner the pieces, the quicker they’ll cook.
  3. Don’t feel like chopping? Whole vegetables roast, too; it’ll just take longer. (You can use the time to clean your room or call your mom.)
  4. You can use one pan for different vegetables. Add the longer cooking vegetables first, and remove the pan to add the rest mid-roast.
  5. Drizzle the oil, because you don’t need much. For new cooks, I recommend a pour spout, because it makes it easier to drizzle just a little. Any kind of oil with a high enough smoking point will do; the smoking point is often listed on the label. If it isn’t? You may use a teeny tiny bit of our data plan to Google it from the grocery store. Or just call me!
  6. Shake the pan to distribute the oil. You could toss the vegetables and oil in a bowl, but that means one more dish to wash. Skip it.
  7. Really feeling lazy? Line your pan with tinfoil before adding the vegetables. And put the foil in the recycling bin if your area allows. And just don’t tell me, so I won’t feel compelled to lecture you about waste. (Please don’t use tinfoil. It won’t kill you to scrub a pan. It’ll help your tennis game, because of all that muscle!)
  8. Go light on the salt and pepper. You can always add more later.
  9. Test for doneness with a fork. Or just eyeball it. Use the light in the oven to see, or just open and close quickly, because you don’t want to waste energy.
  10. Keep the leftovers. You can use them later in a salad, omelet, or burrito. Or you can toss them into pasta.

Did I miss anything? What are your favorite vegetables to roast?