For some reason, I always forget how awesome roasted vegetables taste. As a creature of habit, every time I prepare to cook a meal, I automatically go for the saute pan and get chopping, letting the range do all the work, while the poor oven stays cold and unused for yet another meal. I don't mean to ignore the stove and only use it for baking sweet goodies. I know it can add sweetness to vegetables, too. It just usually slips my mind.
Then earlier this week, in my attempt to organize how the stove would be utilized most efficiently this Thanksgiving, I realized that it would be almost impossible to make a cauliflower, eggplant, and chickpea dish that I was envisioning on the stove top: there simply wouldn't be the room or time. Then, it dawned on me: I would just roast the dish instead, bringing the ingredients together in a saute pan at the very last minute. That way, I would be able to concentrate the flavors of the vegetables and chickpeas, each bite a potential caramelized burst of flavor. That sounded better than "bunch of vegetables and chickpeas jumbled together in a pot."
Roasting is essentially a fool-proof way of cooking any vegetable and making all the good aspects of its flavors shine. I transformed Andrew into a brussels sprouts eater, simply by roasting them with salt and pepper. And have you ever had carrots roasted? It's like eating bright orange candy sticks -- and is just as good smeared with hummus.
There are a few things about roasting that I've learned along the way. First, a tip that I learned which at first seemed like an extra step but really gave improved results was to season what you were roasting in a separate bowl before placing them on a roasting pan. If you place them in a bowl, drizzle them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasoning and then toss them with your hands (they are the best kitchen tool), every centimeter of your vegetables will be coated with the flavors of the seasonings. Try it. It's worth it. Second, you want to give your vegetables enough room to cook. Veggies need their space sometimes. If the vegetables are layered a bit, the browning process won't happen where one veggie is covering another. Lastly, make sure to turn things around once the veggies have browned on one side. If you're roasting something like chickpeas, just a quick stir in the pan every once in a while will do.
I admit that I might have made this recipe a bit more complicated by taking it from the oven back to the stove top, but I felt like the last step really made things come together as a whole dish rather than separate vegetables thrown together. This dish was so a delight to eat -- the way the cauliflower melted in your mouth, mixed with the inherent smokiness of the eggplant, the bite of the onion and the crunch of the chickpeas all really made it stand out on the Thanksgiving table. I'm already thinking about cooking it again.
Cauliflower, Eggplant, and Chickpea Delight
- 1 large eggplant, cut into approx. 2 inch pieces
- 1 large cauliflower, stem removed, florets roughly chopped
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 4 cups pre-cooked chickpeas (I made mine in the crock pot the night before, but you can use 1 can, rinsed)
- 3 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
Drizzle with the olive oil, salt, and ginger. and toss, toss, toss, until everything is evenly coated. Here's a good time to taste things: quality control is always good. If necessary, add more salt or ginger -- you should be able to taste everything.
Spread your vegetables out in a lipped baking sheet or even a casserole dish. Make sure there's a tiny bit of room between everything! I picked out my vegetables and but them on a baking sheet, and then poured the chickpeas into a casserole dish, just to make things easier later on.
Let the oven work its magic for about 20 minutes, and then check on things. Again, quality control: give things a taste. If there is browning on one side, flip the veggies over and give the chickpeas a swirl. Make sure you're cautious of how hot things are at this point. Don't burn yourself!
After you've flipped the veggies, let them roast for another 20 minutes or so. Sometimes I'll leave them in there and turn the oven off, to save energy but still get them to the level of brownness that I desire.
Here's where I realize I make things complicated, but it really did the trick for the dish: when everything is done roasted, heat up the water in a saute pan or saucier pan on medium heat. Place the veggies and chickpeas in the pan, season with the paprika, cinnamon, and turmeric, and give things a good stir. Cover, and let the veggies get to know each other a little better for about 5 minutes. Pour into a serving bowl or set the pan on a trivet to serve on the table. Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a hearty side dish.
What's your favorite vegetable to roast?