Intensify side dish flavors by roasting

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Roasted? fried? smoked?

In my family, turkey cooking questions are usually answered with a shrug. In most recent years, the nonchalance has turned to indifference. Now the question is whether the bird will make an appearance on the Thanksgiving table at all.

The side dishes, though, are another matter.

The first governing principle is that there can’t be too many. My grandson’s favorite is the filling, so we stuff both ends of the turkey and make another large pan with more filling on the side. To make sure everyone is happy, we make both mashed and sweet potatoes. I am a big fan of mashed rutabaga, so we add that to the mix. Viewing the monochromatic menu thus far, my daughter interjects, “We have to have something green!”

I like to eat seasonably (and economically), so I nix the green beans. I had more than enough of them this summer. On a recent trip to the market, I saw beautiful large heads of local cauliflower and broccoli selling for about $1 per head. If you’ve only tried these fall crucifers boiled until they fell apart, it’s time to dump the pot and turn on the oven.

Cooking any vegetable in the oven accomplishes a number of things. First, because the water in the vegetable evaporates, the flavor is intensified. In addition, every vegetable contains some sugar. When roasted, the sugar caramelizes, producing a slight pleasing sweetness. Finally, the vitamins in the vegetables are retained rather than being tossed with the cooking water. Tender, browned and caramelized, they are a treat for both the eye and the palate.

To cook vegetables in the oven, the only equipment you’ll need is a sheet pan large enough to accommodate them without crowding. Just roasting the vegetables with some olive oil produces a fine result, but by adding a few other ingredients, you can turn them into a restaurant-quality side dish.

The roasted cauliflower and broccoli can be made ahead of time and reheated in the oven before serving.

Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli

1 head each cauliflower and broccoli, cut into bite-size florets

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

a few grindings of pepper

5 shallots cut into thin wedges

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Zest from one lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place all of the above ingredients in a large bowl and toss well.

Place the coated vegetables on a large sheet pan and roast for 15 minutes. Stir the vegetables and cook for another 15 minutes or until they are lightly browned.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.