When you roast vegetables, their natural sugars caramelize, the crunchy bits soften, the tender parts get crunchy, and the whole tray disappears like magic.
When you roast vegetables, their natural sugars caramelize, the crunchy bits soften, the tender parts get crunchy, and the whole tray disappears like magic. This method is particularly useful when trying to feed vegetables to picky eaters, both large and small. But while roasted root vegetables have long been staples at my family’s table, recently we’ve added broccoli, cauliflower and kale, with stellar results.
I’ve never been one to try to fool my kids into eating what’s good for them. After all, it’s my responsibility to teach them to eat healthy for the rest of their lives. If they think that spinach at its best tastes like a brownie, they are going to be very confused later on.
But every child is different, and some vegetables are easier to sell than others. Cherry tomatoes are hard to argue with, as are steamed broccoli and boiled green beans, but it’s difficult for me to get excited about them. But toss the vegetables into the oven, and it’s amazing what my kids will eat. And the best part is that grown-ups love them, too.
Years ago, I’d go to Belltown just to eat Broccoli Blasted at Black Bottle. Simply roasting broccoli at 450 degrees turns an everyday vegetable into crunchy, crispy, snackable morsels that have a very slightly bitter char that I can’t get enough of. If your family likes spicy, the addition of garlic and red pepper flakes sends this dish over the top. I often cook cauliflower cut into small (1- to 2-inch) florets the same way. It softens more than broccoli does, which my kids love. Be sure to let it get brown in spots, then stir it well and keep roasting until it browns some more. The resulting tender, golden bits taste toasted and almost buttery. Sometimes I’ll roast slender farmers market carrots on the same pan. They get sweet and soft, and then I drizzle over a little honey and a squeeze of lime, and I’ve got two side dishes and only one dirty pan.
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At dinner a couple of months ago at Zephyr Paquette’s Capitol Hill restaurant, Skelly and the Bean, I ordered Blasted Kale for myself, and asked everyone to just try a nibble. Four orders later, I knew we had a winner. The edges of the leaves were crispy and so light they shattered in our mouths, and the middles were crunchy and chewy. Zephyr kindly shared her recipe (note that while the denser vegetables get blasted in a 450 degree oven, Zephyr’s leafy kale only needs 250 degrees):
Zephyr Paquette’s Blasted Kale
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon pepper
1. Wash the kale, remove the center stems, and spin dry. Blend the remaining ingredients. Add the kale and toss to coat thoroughly. Spread the kale on a sheet pan and bake at 250 degrees for about 20 minutes, until crispy.
Recipe from Skelly and the Bean restaurant on Capitol Hill.
Leora Y. Bloom is the author of “Washington Food Artisans: Farm Stories and Chef Recipes.”