Friday, April 5, 2013

Fork and Spoon Friday: Roasted Vegetables

What do you pack in lunches for work?

I wish I had a better system, but I'm trying to perfect it. One thing I do know is that if I don't have something made up and ready to go in the fridge, I'm far more likely to a) eat out or pick something up from a deli or b) eat from the vending machine. Both tend to be expensive and unhealthy. So I try to keep some things prepared.

One of my favorites is roasted vegetables:

It's hot, filling, and comforting, good for that midday break. But they are also healthy, low fat, vegetarian, and full of fiber and vitamins. Did I mention cheap? So, yes, better in every way than that bag of chips from the vendo-land in the hallway.

I thought I'd show everyone how I make mine. It's easy to do in a half hour to 45 minutes on a Sunday, and is amazingly flexible.

Choose your veggies:

Here I have a sweet potato, some small red potatoes I had left from another meal, a green pepper, and a leftover half of a red onion. This is a little on the lean side for amounts. I usually roast enough so that I have about 4 to 5 cups of roasted vegetables when I'm done. This will get me about three.

You can roast almost anything. Parsnips, turnips, winter squash, and beets are good. So is fennel bulb and leeks. Mushrooms work too, and in spring you can add asparagus. Tomatoes taste heavenly roasted, but they do tend to overwhelm other veggies in the flavor mix, so I usually leave them out, and do them all by themselves for other uses. Using potatoes that are all sorts of colors makes a beautiful roast mix.

Chop up your veggies. I peel the sweet potatoes:

But I don't peel the red ones: 

1 1/2 to 2-inch chunks are about the right size. I cut up the pepper, and added some orange and red mini-peppers I found in the crisper drawer that were a little marginal for fresh eating:

And the onion, in big wedges: 

Put just the firmest, root veggies in a cast iron skillet or pan. For me that's the red potatoes and sweet potatoes. This would also be the time to add turnips, beets, parsnips, or winter squash. You want a dark, heavy pan that can store and radiate heat for this. My cast iron skillet is older than I am, and I love it for this job.

Drizzle them with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper them to taste. Toss so they and the pan are thoroughly coated.

Slide them in a 400-degree oven:

Bake them for 15 minutes, stirring once in the middle of that time. By the end of 15 minutes, the vegetables should look a little translucent in places, and you should see some browning in some places:

Add the softer vegetables. In my case, this would be the peppers and onions. This would also be a good time to add asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel, and mushrooms:

Slide them back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Stir once or twice during this time, making sure you get up all the brown toasty bits that stick to the pan. That's what makes it taste good.. When it's out for one of those stirring sessions, add 1 finely chopped chipotle chili in adobo sauce, plus a tablespoon of sauce from the can. I usually keep chipotle peppers in a adobo sauce in a container in the freezer so that I can pop out one for recipes like this. The chipotle adds a little spice and flavor, but you can add more if you like heat. You can also skip this entirely if you'd rather not.

By end of cooking time, the vegetables should be looking nice and roasty. They look done when they look like this:

This batch got me about 3 cups of veggies, a little on the small side. For me that's 2 big servings or three smaller ones. This is good with shredded cheddar melted on top. You can also add a side of brown rice to keep it vegetarian. Roast vegetables also make a good side dish for home suppers of grilled meats.

I love how versatile and healthy it is. What's your go-to work lunch?

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