Roast Up Flavor
Nothing ramps up the flavor of fruits and vegetables like roasting does. Here’s what to take to the oven this fall—and how to get perfect results.
When the weather cools, we crave meals that are warm and hearty and dishes that use the heat of the oven to enhance flavor. Roasting brings out the natural goodness of fresh fruits and vegetables like no other cooking technique. “It takes all that great flavor and intensifies it,” says John Taylor, a member of the Panera Bread® Food Team.
Roasting is easy to master because the same basic principles apply, regardless of your ingredients. “Roasting works best for foods that are somewhat firm in texture, like potatoes, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, squash, and stone fruit,” says John. “If you think about what’s in season during the fall, you really can’t go wrong.”
Whether you roast your harvest quickly under high heat, or long and slow on low, John has a few suggestions for getting the most flavor out of oven roasting.
Choose the right pan
Roast in a flat metal pan with low sides, such as a jelly roll pan. “This allows the heat to surround your ingredients,” says John.
Know high versus low
A high-heat oven (400° to 425°F) will retain moisture and concentrate flavor while cooking items quickly. A low-heat oven (225° to 300°F) works the moisture out and enhances the core flavor of your ingredients more slowly.
Take care with combinations
It’s best to stick to one vegetable—or fruit—at a time. “Potatoes will take longer to cook than broccoli or carrots, so if you are grouping items, make sure they have similar density and texture,” John recommends.
Plan for the servings you need
Remember that roasting tends to shrink volume, so increase quantities accordingly.
Season vegetables smartly
After you cut vegetables, toss the pieces in olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Tossing coats each piece and is preferable to the technique of drizzling. “You don’t need a lot of seasoning,” says John. “You really want to enhance flavor with oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a handful of fresh herbs.”
Adapt this simple recipe to whatever fresh ingredients you have on hand.
1-2-3 Roasted Vegetables
1 pound vegetables, cut into evenly sized pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Toss the vegetables with the oil and season them with salt and pepper to taste.
- Arrange the seasoned vegetables in a single layer in a metal baking pan and roast them until tender and caramelized.
For a delicious variation, John suggests cutting cherry tomatoes in half and tossing them with salt and pepper and a dash of sugar. Roast in a 225°F oven for about two hours. “The flavor is incredible,” says John. “Just sample our Roasted Tomato & Feta Baked Egg Soufflé for a taste.”
Don’t forget fruit. Roasted fruits, including apples, pears, and stone fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, and plums, can be a flavor-rich addition to desserts and green or grain salads—like our Roasted Turkey Harvest Wheatberry Salad, which features roasted apples. Keep the following tips in mind:
- It’s best to start with ripe but firm, and pitted or cored, selections.
- Toss pieces with olive oil, citrus juice, or rum. Add a little sugar for caramelization.
- Fruits will roast more quickly (20 to 40 minutes, depending on size, at low heat) than most vegetables. They’re ready when tender.