Sometimes I say to myself, I say, Luisa, does the world really need another recipe for and then I fill in the blank with whatever thing I'm about to tell you about, cookies or soup or roasted vegetables, say. And then I hem and I haw with myself for a good while, feeling alternatingly dejected and enthusiastic and, er, also slightly mad, before I make a decision.
For example: A batch of oatmeal cookies with chocolate (milk chocolate!) and raisins I made a few months ago? I decided against them. (Even though they were pretty good!) Because I kind of feel like I'd just be adding to the internet bedlam. These cookies are the best! No, make these cookies over here! No, no, my cookies are the be-all and end-all! Gah. Sometimes a girl just gets a little tired of all the noise. You know?
And so it was with these roasted vegetables. I mean, I love them and I think they are lamination-worthy (anyone reading here who still remembers that? ha!), but chances are you already roast your vegetables your very own way and is my little blog post really going to get anyone into the kitchen when it's hot and sticky out and everyone would rather be eating popsicles and swilling cold cocktails after hours and so on and so forth?
(It was a self-doubt kind of day, friends.)
But ultimately, the deliciousness factor made me change my mind. I mean, even if just one person starts to make their roasted vegetables this way, I guess I will have won (what contest I couldn't even say) and so that was enough deliberating for me. Besides, my aunt Laura made us these vegetables the first day of our vacation and then was obliged to make them four more times over the course of the two weeks because none of us, not me, not my mother, not Hugo, not Max, could stop eating them. That's how good they are.
Okay, so I don't know about you, but when I roast vegetables, I always just take the vegetable I'm going to roast (asparagus, say, or parsnips or Brussels sprouts or whatever), cut them into pieces (or not!), put them on a sheet pan with a little bit of oil and salt and stick them in a hot oven. I try not to crowd the vegetables so that they have space to brown and blister and get crisp, and I turn the heat up way high. And that's it.
But Laura did everything differently. First, she mixed a whole bunch of vegetables together. An eggplant, a zucchini, an onion, two carrots, a bell pepper, a few small potatoes and a couple of tomatoes. Tomatoes! She cut everything into little pieces, much smaller than I usually do (so small that about 3 pieces could fit into Hugo's (admittedly) widely-opened mouth once cooked). Then she piled all the vegetables into a baking dish. The vegetables were layered a few inches thick, squished willy-nilly on top of and next to each other. Laura also used way more olive oil than I usually do (which left a gorgeously hued puddle of delicious cooking juices at the bottom of the pan that we battled over, armed with pieces of bread, at the end of the meal). And finally, she turned the heat a little lower than I usually do and let the vegetables cook for much longer. Close to an hour, I'd say.
For seasonings, she used this herb mixture (garlic already included) and a bit more salt and some pepper. Since then, I've done some experimenting, using herbs like thyme or rosemary or wild fennel, and I have to say that all of them work deliciously. Just make sure you mince your rosemary or else you will have poky little pieces strewn throughout your soft, fantastic vegetables and they will make you feel a little stabby. (Or is it just me?) What's important is that you include garlic in some form (either minced or left whole or in the herb rub), use plennnnnty of olive oil, crowd the vegetables as best you can into a dish (the more crowding, the better!) and let them cook for as long as you can stand.
What you will get, at the end, are vegetables that have sort of contracted and shrunk and sweetened. They get wholly infused with the flavors of the herbs, garlic and oil. The potatoes turn into potato candy - all chewy and sweet and incredible. The tomatoes lose all their moisture to the pan, but miraculously retain their shape, so you get little bombs of tomato flavor now and then. The onions snake their way throughout, perfuming every bite. The eggplants soften into silk. And all together, ooh, it's just so good that it's worth every bit of interest noise I might herewith create.
Ready? Here we go:
THE BEST ROASTED VEGETABLES EVER!!!!!!!
Serves 6 as a side dish
1 medium onion
1 medium or 2 small carrots
2 small potatoes
5 small tomatoes
1 red or yellow pepper
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, wild fennel are all good choices - either individually or combined in some form)
4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (180 C). Quarter and slice the onion thinly. Dice all the vegetables into pieces that are approximately the same size (no larger than 1/2 inch). Pile the vegetables into a baking dish so that the vegetables lie a few inches thick. Season with salt, pepper and herbs to taste and then pour the olive oil over the vegetables. Mix thoroughly but gently - you don't want to destroy the tomatoes before the dish goes into the oven. Now check the vegetables to make sure they are well-coated and glistening with oil. If need be, add more oil.
2. Put the dish in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Halfway through the cooking process, remove the dish from the oven and very gently stir the vegetables so that the ones at the bottom come to the top. Towards the end of the cooking process, stir a second time. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Check for seasoning and serve.