Roasting Vegetables to Perfection

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Tasty additions
From olive oil to a pesto rub, additions make a difference. It also matters when in the roasting process you add them. Fresh-from-the-garden vegetables are often so flavorful that masking them with lots of seasoning seems a sin. Sometimes all that’s needed is a brushing with oil, a twist of fresh pepper, and a sprinkle of salt. Olive oil keeps the exterior of vegetables from drying out, while the salt draws out some moisture, concentrating the flavors of the vegetables so they’re sweet and intense.

Sliced garlic
  After slicing garlic, sprinkle it with coarse salt to keep it from sticking to your knife and your fingers while you mince it.

There’s a world of seasonings beyond oil, salt, and pepper, and with any luck, it’s right outside your door in your herb garden. Some fresh herbs, such as rosemary, hold up well to roasting. More delicate, succulent green herbs do not and may lose flavor or blacken. Fresh dill, basil, and parsley should be added once the dish is out of the oven. Oregano, thyme, marjoram, and sage will hold up to some roasting, especially if coated with oil.

Garlic can serve as a seasoning or as the main ingredient of a side dish. Roasting subdues garlic’s pungent heat, so it’s a great way to cook this allium. Beware, however, of roasting garlic—especially minced garlic—at high temperatures for more than 10 to 15 minutes; the garlic will burn and taste acrid and unappealing.  To prevent this, add minced garlic to sliced, moist vegetables, or toss the ingredients with a bit of olive oil. If you’re working with larger cuts of vegetables, consider using whole cloves of garlic.

Hot peppers like serranos or cayennes can be roasted with a main vegetable. The pepper will impart a fieriness to whatever it’s tossed with. Curry powders or savory spice blends mixed with oils are tasty additions. Sesame or nut oil imparts its own flavor. Vinegar or citrus juice heightens and intensifies the flavor of the vegetable. Soy sauce gives ingredients a distinctive Asian taste. Small amounts of sugar, honey, and maple syrup sweeten and aid in cara­mel­ization. Don’t hesitate to experiment.

And two more roasting tips. . .
When prepping vegetables for roasting, wash and drain them well, then pat them dry with paper towels. Excess water can cause vegetables to steam rather than roast. Spread vegetables out in just one layer in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet; you want them to fit snugly.

I’m a great believer in planning ahead. Many vegetables can be roasted one day ahead and then reheated close to serving time in a 400°F degree oven.

Remember, you have a lot of choices with roasting, and most vegetables will respond well to different temperatures and different cooking times. Be sure to let the flavor of the vegetables sing.

Visit's Essential Guide to Roasting Vegetables and get more than 50 recipes for roasted vegetables.

by Carole Peck
April 1999
from issue #20

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Comments (2)

Ruth writes: Sorry, wallace3, but we don't have a "favorites" feature on You can, however, print the article if you like, or you can bookmark the url for future reference.
Posted: 8:55 am on December 8th
wallace3 writes: Why can't i save this article - like we can on fine gardeing site?
Posted: 6:05 pm on December 7th
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