Sometimes life gets too busy to get all fancy in the kitchen and that’s why there is no shame in taking everything from my CSA box and doing a sauté-o-roast-o-rama. My sister-in-law asked me if just roasting all the veggies in her CSA was being lazy and I said, hell no! I actually do it quite often. I could just sit down and eat all those veggies in one sitting but instead I take those roasted and sautéed veggies and combine them into fun and exciting new dishes. This both stretches the ingredients so that I have food for the whole week and it also keeps me from getting bored because I’m a spoiled brat and I like to eat different things all the time. So here is a little primer on how to make your sauté-o-roast-o-rama interesting and tasty all week long.
Get the Roast Right
So the most important thing is to properly roast the veggies. This may sound super simple and basic and you might be slightly offended by the assumption that you’re doing it wrong but you might be. If people don’t ask you what you put “in this” when you just simply roast a vegetable, then you’re doing it wrong. I get this question all the time and I love the look on people’s faces when I tell them “salt and heat”.
There is a thing called the Maillard effect and it’s what happens when veggies, meat and other foods get that nice golden crispy crust on them from cooking. It could be the golden sear from the frying pan or the toasted edges that form in a 400 degree oven. Either way, the effect is the same. Delicious.
The key to getting this golden crust on your veggies is timing. I put the veggies in the 400 degree oven and set the oven timer for 10 minutes. I then check back on the veggies every 10 minutes. People always ask me for times and in general I would say 20 minutes total but that can vary. It depends on which veggies you are roasting (beets, carrots, broccoli, zucchini all have different times), how big or small you cut your veggies, if you have hot spots in your oven, how fresh the veggies are and other variables that I probably am not aware of. So it’s good to keep an eye on them. The time it takes to go from golden crust to charcoal is short so you want to wait until you get that gilded toastiness and then you want to pull them out of the oven because they will continue to cook.
The same principles for roasting apply to sautéing or pan frying. You want that Maillard effect in full effect just like you do with the roasting. They key to this when cooking on the stove top is to get the oil hot in the pan before you put the veggies in there. If you put the veggies in cold oil and wait for it to heat up, it makes getting that golden color on there tricky and the veggies also absorb way more oil.
I put just enough oil in the pan to coat the bottom and then let it get hot so that the oil shimmers. Then I carefully put the veggies in one layer in the pan with room between them. You don’t want to crowd the pan because as the veggies cook they will give off juices and if you put them all on top of each other they will steam instead of searing and you’ll never get that golden crust. Let them cook until you can see a golden layer forming on the bottom when you look at the sides. If you aren’t sure or don’t see anything, take the first one you put into the pan and flip it to check it. If it looks good, start flipping the others. The pan will get hotter as you go so you might have to turn down the heat or adjust it as they cook to avoid burning the shit out of them. Remember, we want golden not charcoal.
Sauté vs. Roast
When to sauté and when to roast? That is the question. In general you can really do either. I do prefer to sauté my greens and roast my root veggies but I’ve done it the other way around too. It’s up to you really but the reason I often end up doing both is because all my veggies won’t fit in the oven at the same time so while some veggies are in the oven, I can be sautéing or pan frying the others on the range. It’s a super efficient way to cook a bunch of veggies in the quickest amount of time possible.
A Few Words on Salt
Salt is my biggest secret ingredient. You gotta have salt. If your food is not tasty, you probably need to put more salt in it. Salt is your best friend in the kitchen. Embrace salt and all the flavor it brings to food, you will be happier for it. I make stuff that literally only contains 2 ingredients, salt and oil, and people lose their damn minds and ask me what’s “in it”. When I respond that it’s just salt, they look at me like I’m a liar. I swear to you, most of the time that’s all it is! Quality ingredients and salt. Now you know my big secret.
When it comes to roasting veggies I have a very simple but strict method. I take the chopped veggies and put them in a bowl, pour enough olive oil to coat every piece of veggie and then I sprinkle a generous amount of salt so that every veggie has a sprinkle of salt on every side. Then I pour the veggies out onto the baking sheet and pop them in the oven.
A lot of recipes tell you to put the veggies on the sheet and then drizzle oil and salt over them but I find this to be less efficient. I want the veggies to be coated on all sides with an even distribution of oil and salt. I also don’t want to waste a bunch of oil and salt and the bowl method allows me to use the just the amount I need, no more, no less.
I know you’re probably wanting some unit of measure right about now, like 1 teaspoon of salt per pound, but I don’t have that for you. What I can say is that you should start off with a big pinch and then toss the veggies around and see if you can see an even distribution of salt granules on all of the veggies. If you can, stop. If you can’t, add some more until you can see the salt sticking to all sides of the shiny oiled veggies.
Sautéing is slightly different. Unlike roasting, salting occurs after the veggies are in the pan. I sprinkle salt on the top as the bottom turns golden. Then when I flip them I salt the other side. Once again, you kinda got to learn to eyeball this. I keep a little bowl of salt next to me and just grab pinches out of it as I go. This gives me more control as to how much I’m using rather than pouring it out of the container.
Why just salt? Why not a bunch of fun spices or herbs? Well, that’s because….
Mix and Match
Ok, so now you have a bunch of delicious cooked veggies. Because we only seasoned them with salt they can be used in all kinds of different dishes with different flavor profiles: Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, Southwestern, etc. The possibilities are endless. If you are drawing a complete blank, don’t worry, I got you.
Storage. First things first. If you aren’t’ going to eat them all at once or turn them into separate meals that same day then store them separately. That’s right, a container for each veggie. Why? Because different veggies behave differently in storage. Root veggies pretty much hold their own, but others, like summer squashes, release liquids and you don’t want to cross contaminate because it can really change the texture and flavor that you took the time to achieve through your cooking method.
Idea Matrix. The accountant in me loves things that are organized and logical. This Matrix gives you and overview of the various things you can do with your roasted veggies using a basic formula. The basic formula I use to stretch mine is to pick a starch and a flavor profile and then mix and match from there. For the starches, just cook them according to package instructions and DON’T FORGET THE SALT.
Last tip: have fun with it. Play with your food. Get creative. Create joy. It’s the best secret ingredient.