Roasted vegetables are a boon to the busy cook, and a platter of them lets everyone choose their favorites. Although local vegetables always are better, there is a variety of vegetables now available year round, perking up the winter doldrums.
All roasting is similar: toss in a fat such as drippings, cooking oil or even butter, spread in one layer on a sheet or other pan with sides, and cook until the desired texture. I have found that using several smaller pans, each holding a type of vegetable with a similar cooking time, makes it easier to keep things from being over- or under-cooked at serving time. Add as many vegetables as you like to the platter. Substituting small potatoes or carrots means an adjustment in time.
The earthy richness of root vegetables makes them an attractive fall and winter dish. When I grew up, all the meat drippings were saved, usually in a metal can next to the stove. The drippings were mixed willy-nilly and no one was concerned. While drippings add an enormous amount of flavor and color, oil works as well.
Roasted Potatoes, Onions, and Turnips
Serves 6 to 8
3 turnips, peeled
3 medium potatoes, peeled
3 medium carrots, peeled
3 medium onions, peeled
4 to 8 tablespoons meat drippings, oil or butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon rosemary
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Cut the vegetables into quarters. Toss the vegetables in drippings or cooking oil and roast in the oven about 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes, until browned and crisp all over. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Crumble rosemary on top and serve hot.
Note: Root vegetables become bitter when old or larger than a baseball, so they should be blanched. They add so much to the flavor of the dish that it is worth the effort.
Add quartered fennel bulb and cook as above.
Green onions and shallot bulbs can be used as well.
Slice and roast zucchini, okra and other tender green vegetables, toss in drippings, oil, or butter and cook for 15 minutes until crisp-tender. Season to taste.
Brussels sprouts: slice or quarter, toss in drippings, oil or butter and roast for 15-20 minutes until crisp-tender. Season to taste.
Cauliflower florets: Toss in curry powder, cumin, turmeric or other "peppy" spice, drizzle oil over and roast for 15-20 minutes until crisp-tender. Season to taste.
Broccoli florets: Toss in oil and roast for 15-20 minutes until crisp-tender. Season to taste.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently the James Beard award-winning "Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking." She lives in Charleston. Reach her through Nathaliedupree.com
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