Saturday, March 19, 2011

Roasted Vegetables

If you are like most Americans, you are carrying a few extra pounds.  You are either on a diet or need to be on one.  I've been struggling with my weight since I was 12, so I know few things about diets, and it all boils down the three words that are every mother's mantra:  Eat your veggies.  There are corollaries, of course--like exercise, lean meats, take vitamins, and blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.  Eat vegetables.  At every meal and sometimes, OMG, as a meal. 

For those of us raised on canned vegetables this is no easy feat.  I still get that queezy feeling in the back of my throat thinking about the flaccid greenish stuff that would ooze it's way out of that can and onto my plate.  Canned vegetables are like the the pimply-faced kid with the sweaty hands and wispy blond hair in highschool that always asked me to dance right as the DJ started playing Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven.  And with a daily dose of canned vegetables, instead of merely suffering through what has to be longest song of the 1970's, I'm faced with the shocking reality that I don't just have to dance with this guy, I have to marry him.   Fortunately, however, the 70's are over, and my bony dance partner has grown up.  He's right there in the produce aisle of the grocery store looking all sexy, buff, and fit.  The pimples are gone and he recently founded a technology company that was just listed on the NASDAQ.  In other words, life's not so bad when the veggies are fresh.  It's really simple--if the veggies are in a can, a box, or a bag--don't eat them.  For just a little extra effort, you can have something that isn't just edible, but actually tastes good.  I'll start you off with a medley of roasted vegetables.  I promise you that even if they don't spark a lifetime love affair, they're at least a memorable one night stand. 

1.   Get thee to a good grocery store or farmer's market.  I'm not an organic Nazi, but you aren't going to fine fresh vegetables at 7-11, Walmart, or Target.  Even the major grocery chains like Giant, Safeway, or Shopper's can be spotty. 

2.  Check the produce over carefully.  Unless you're buying potatoes, it shouldn't be brown and bruises or soft spots mean that it's starting to rot.  I'm not so concerned about the uniformity of its shape or if it has perfect color.  Shiny can often mean that it's just been artificially waxed and if it is perfectly shaped it's probably been genetically engineered to look that way.  Your vegetables should, however, be firm to the touch with just a little tenderness so that you know they're ripe (also works if you happen to be looking for a lover).  Obviously, this rule varies for different types of vegetables, but I find that it works pretty well for the vegetables in this recipe:

 Eggplant, yellow squash, green squash or zucchini, and bell peppers--multiple colors.  Also get one small-to-medium red onion. 
The Color Purple

and green, yellow, red, and orange
3.  Coursely chop each into shapes about the size of a half-dollar. No need to peel anything, except the red onion.

4.  Place in a large roasting pan or pyrex dish.  Lightly toss with olive or canola oil--about 3 Tbs.

5.  Generously salt and pepper.

6.  Place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for about 1 hour.  Turn or re-toss about every 10--15 minutes. 

7.  The vegetables are done when they are tender, but not mushy.  If you want, you can finish them off by placing the pan about 3 inches from the broiling unit, and then broiling on high heat for about 3 minutes.  This step, although optional, will lightly toast and crisp the vegetables giving them an almost grill-like effect. 

8.  You can eat them now, but I prefer to let them cool for about an hour, drizzle with just a little (about 3 tsps) of a high-end balsamic vinegar, and THEN eat them.  They work great as a side dish, a topping for burgers, or rolled up in a pita.  Stairway to Heaven never sounded so good.  [Click here for a full multi-media experience]  :)

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