Roasted Root Veggies

A while back, my grandmother and I were prepping for dinner in her kitchen and she had me start chopping some vegetables, a few of which I had never tried before. It turned out to be my favorite item to bring along to whichever Thanksgiving feast we wind up attending.

It also happens to put me in a really good mood while I’m making it. Chopping veggies and doing all of the mise en place work in the kitchen has always brought about a good “zen” kind of vibe. Just me, a big pile of produce, some music and a good knife.

The dish is colorful, smells great, dead simple and very hard to mess up. It’s my kind of dish.

The short version

Grab some root veggies, chop everything down to 1/4 inch pieces. Add garlic and shallot. Coat with olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast at 425 for 50 min. Super simple.

The long version

1) Base veggies

My normal set of ingredients starts with: sweet potatoes, red potatoes and carrots. You can decide for yourself how much/many of each veggie you want. My deployment is usually as follows.

  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 4-5 red potatoes
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 parsnips

2) Additional veggies. The “star” players.

I will usually seek out two or three additional root veggies to add in to the dish. They are different each time I make the dish and usually dependent on what I can spot in the produce aisle.

These are the veggies that become the “stars” of the dish and represent some underutilized flavors in the produce section.

In the past, I have included included.

  • Parsnips. High on my “include” list. I include these nearly every time I see them in the produce section. They look like white carrots and have a great slightly spicy gingery vibe.
  • Spaghetti squash. Use one whole one. Generally the easiest squash to deal with if chopping veggies isn’t a passion of yours.
  • Turnips. Underrated as an accompaniment. Nutty, earthy when cooked. Plays well with parsnips.
  • Rutabaga. A turnip with a different name. They wind up a little on the chewy side, so maybe crank the temp up a bit more if these are included?
  • Beets. Recently, I’ve turned to using the golden yellow kind instead of the super dark red variety. They taste just about the same, but the yellow kind won’t immediately turn the dish bright pink when you mix it.
  • Acorn squash. Similar taste as a spaghetti squash but about 5 times harder to chop evenly.

Want to experiment? 

  • Ginger is a root veggie as well and would probably play well with some of these flavors.
  • I’ve also never tried it with pumpkin. Never tried, but would likely be great. Trick or treat with veggies?
  • Also never tried celery root. That would seem an automatic disqualifier for anyone under the age of 10 to actually try the dish. Pretty bold choice for a root veggie IMO.

3) Supporting ingredients: olive oil, salt & pepper, dry herbs, garlicshallot

  • Finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic + 1-2 shallots. Set aside (together) in a small prep bowl.
  • Chopping this stuff really small tends to hide the flavor a bit more than leaving it roughly chopped.
  • Slicing the garlic (or even roasting a bunch of cloves whole) can tilt the flavor to Mediterranean-ish if that’s your vibe.
  • White onion also (chopped medium) is a good substitute for shallots for people that like onion.

4) Chop everything down into 1/4 inch pieces.

  • Bigger pieces cook just as good, but the flavors don’t blend together quite as well.
  • I usually set aside and label one uncooked cube of each kind in the dish for those curious sorts who always wonder “what am I eating here?” =)

5) Cooking

  • Add everything to a casserole dish. All veggies + the garlic & shallot.
  • Add a pretty liberal amount of olive oil. You don’t want a bunch on the bottom of the casserole, but the veggies should be well coated.
  • Add salt & pepper to taste.
  • Mix it together in the casserole to combine.
  • Bake in a 425-degree oven for about 50 min. I tend to check on it after about 40 minutes and add time as needed.
  • This dish plays very well well with others and is honestly pretty hard to mess up. So if you’ve got a crowded oven, you can raise or lower the temperature and cooking time as needed.

Tips and tricks

TIP: After about the 35-minute mark, try NOT to stir the dish too heavily. (The sweet potatoes will turn to mush and lose their shape if you do.) 

TIP: When I shop for the ingredients, I always use a hand-carried basket as opposed to a full shopping cart. If you start to notice that the basket is hard to carry with one hand, you can stop adding things… you’ve got enough. =)