Something magical happens when vegetables get roasted in the oven. It’s as if the cooking fairy comes around, waves her little carrot wand, and turns common vegetables into food gold.
Food gold. That reminds me of something that I learned in nursing school–gold, or rather gold salts, are sometimes used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Gold salts reduce inflammation, which is the destructive force behind rheumatoid arthritis and some other autoimmune diseases. I suppose that gold salts could be true “food gold”. Just an interesting side note for you to share with someone during one of those uncomfortable lags in conversation. You could start out with something like, “Hey, how about those gold salts for rheumatoid arthritis!”
But, back to the magic of roasted vegetables. I never cease to be amazed at what a bit of browning or caramelization can do for the flavor of foods. With some vegetables, roasting intensifies their sweetness, which might otherwise go under noticed. With other vegetables, a more savory flavor is developed with roasting. One of my very favorite roasted one-pan wonders is Herbed Roasted Chicken and Vegetables, a sister dish featuring these same vegetables plus tender, succulent chicken and whole mushrooms.
The following recipe uses just three vegetables, which seem to work beautifully together. There are two sweets and a savory: butternut squash, red onions, and red potatoes, respectively. I find the sweetness of roasted butternut squash absolutely addicting. The delicious flavor of roasted potatoes are no secret to anyone and caramelized onions are an art form. As a case in point regarding caramelized onions, I did a Google search on them and got 3,440,000 results! (But of course that’s nothing compared to the word “bacon” for which there were 108,000,000 results. )
While the vegetables are wonderful roasted with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, they become almost elegant with the addition of fresh herbs. I used fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme. The sage, especially, was surprisingly wonderful.
The vegetables are scattered loosely on two pans, then are baked at 450-degrees F. in order to allow the caramelization. Overcrowding the vegetables will cause them to steam rather than roast.
Cut the vegetables into about 1-inch square pieces. You don’t have to be exact, of course. Don’t go any smaller than 3/4-inch. You could go larger than 1-inch, but just remember to keep it within normal range for fitting nicely into a human mouth. Remember, human bites, not alligator bites.
Strip the sage leaves and the rosemary leaves from their stems prior to mincing. The thyme leaves and the soft, pliable parts of the thyme stems can be minced together, but don’t include the woody parts of the stems. Strip the leaves from the woody parts and add them to the minced thyme (the leaves, not the woody stems!). The leaves are already small enough, so no mincing is necessary.
The smell from the herbs is so delicious!
Add the extra virgin olive oil and give everything a good toss. The vegetables need to be well coated with the olive oil, but they don’t have to be swimming in it.
Divide the vegetables between two foil lined baking sheets. Make sure that the vegetables are not crowded, otherwise they will steam instead of roast. Roasting allows for the caramelizing process. Be sure to sprinkle with salt and pepper prior to roasting.
See these beauties? They are perfect. Roasting intensifies the natural sweetness of the butternut squash. It is to Autumn what watermelon is to summer. I would be content to sit down with a plate full of it for dinner. There are no surprises with the potatoes and the onions. They appear in many meals at my house throughout the year in many forms; a testimony to their adaptability and consistently enjoyable flavor.
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