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Kitchen Basics: Roasting Root Vegetables

Susan writes the blog Cardamom Kitchen to share her culinary experiences as an Indian-American rooted in the Midwest. Luckily she's also sharing her experiences with Whole Story readers by demystifing essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos.

I try my best to eat seasonal produce, but by February it’s a struggle. Like other Chicagoans, I’ve endured a marathon of gray-skied days and yearn for green grass, green leaves, and green vegetables. Asparagus, leeks, and artichokes won’t be harvested in the Midwest for weeks, but I start to fantasize about them anyway, which is a shame, I know. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables offer so much promise this time of year. They can serve as sunken treasures in soup and nuggets of flavor in stir-fries. They can also be transformed into mouthwatering sides using one of the simplest cooking methods of all: roasting.

Thanks to their low moisture content, root vegetables develop a sweet-savory flavor when exposed to high heat. Coating them with a thin layer of oil keeps them from drying out, and cutting them into relatively uniform pieces ensures even cooking. To build in even more flavor, toss root vegetables with your favorite hardy herbs or sprinkle them with a smidge of your favorite spices. Really, there’s little more to roasting root vegetables, so if you could use a little warmth in your house and in your belly, don’t pass them by.

How to Roast Root Vegetables

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash your favorite root vegetables. Here, I’m using parsnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes because I love the color combination and the way their gentle flavors blend together. 

Cut off the stem ends from the carrots and parsnips. Peel the vegetables and cut them down the middle lengthwise to create a flat surface.

Place the parsnip and carrot halves on a cutting board, cut side down. Roughly chop them into one-inch pieces, crosswise. Discard the very narrow ends. 

Place the sweet potato halves on the cutting board, cut side down. Cut them into three large pieces, lengthwise. Roughly chop each piece into one-inch pieces, crosswise. 

Line a baking sheet or shallow pan with aluminum foil and layer the chopped vegetables on top. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and just enough olive oil to coat. Rub the vegetables with your fingers to thoroughly coat them with the oil. This will prevent them from sticking.

Cook the vegetables, flipping and stirring occasionally, for 35 minutes, or until they are tender enough to pierce with a fork. 

I’d love to see your tips for roasting root vegetables! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.