7 Tips for Roasting Vegetables

robynmac/iStock via Getty Images Plus
robynmac/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Roasting is one of the simplest methods of cooking. Dry heat (usually from an oven) transforms raw ingredients into golden brown deliciousness. And while you can certainly roast proteins like beef and fish, some of the most delicious roasted recipes are vegetarian-friendly.

Here, courtesy of Chef Frank Proto at The Institute of Culinary Education, are seven tips for roasting vegetables.

  1. Cut your vegetables to roughly even sizes.

This will ensure nearly equal cooking time, and you won’t be left with any pieces charred to a crisp or raw on the inside.

  1. Coat liberally with olive oil and salt.

Most home cooks under-salt their food. Start with a generous pinch. Always taste your food before serving, and learn from experience how much salt is enough.

  1. Cook your vegetables in a single layer.

If they’re overcrowded, they’ll come out soggy, without the delicious crispy edges roasting can provide.

  1. Experiment with spices.

While salt and oil are all you need for delicious flavor, seasoning is a chance to push your flavors in one direction or another. Proto recommends coriander seed for carrots, while butternut squash can be tilted in a North African direction with cayenne and cumin. Follow your instincts or look to online recipes for inspiration.

  1. Get to know your produce.

Spongy vegetables like eggplant call for more oil and salt, while tomatoes can be cut in half and roasted skin-side up. The skins will blister in the oven and come off easily afterwards. You’ll get better with practice and won’t need recipes at all.

  1. Oven temperature is surprisingly flexible.

Whether you choose a gentle 350°F or crank the oven past 400, the important thing is to keep an eye on your food and remove from the heat when the outside is browned and the insides are tender. Vegetables like asparagus and zucchini will generally cook faster than tougher items like carrots and butternut squash, but your individual oven and the size of your cut veggies will also influence cook time.

  1. Observation is key.

As an experiment, check your vegetables after a few minutes, when you know they’ll be undercooked. Check several more times until they’re done, noting how they transform throughout the process. Soon you’ll be aware of the cues—visual, textural, and olfactory—that will lead you to roasted perfection.

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What Really Happens When Food Goes Down the 'Wrong Pipe'?

The dreaded 'wrong pipe' calamity can strike at any time.
The dreaded 'wrong pipe' calamity can strike at any time.
Photo by Adrienn from Pexels

Your average person isn’t expected to be well-versed in the linguistics of human anatomy, which is how we wind up with guns for biceps and noggins for heads. So when swallowing something is followed by throat irritation or coughing, the fleeting bit of discomfort is often described as food “going down the wrong pipe.” But what’s actually happening?

When food is consumed, HuffPost reports, more than 30 muscles activate to facilitate chewing and swallowing. When the food is ready to leave your tongue and head down to your stomach, it’s poised near the ends of two "pipes," the esophagus and the trachea. You want the food to take the esophageal route, which leads to the stomach. Your body knows this, which is why the voice box and epiglottis shift to close off the trachea, the “wrong pipe” of ingestion.

Since we don’t typically hold our breath when we eat, food can occasionally take a wrong turn into the trachea, an unpleasant scenario known as aspiration, which triggers an adrenaline response and provokes coughing and discomfort. Dislodging the food usually eases the sensation, but if it’s enough to become stuck, you have an obstructed airway and can now be officially said to be choking.

The “wrong pipe” can also be a result of eating while tired or otherwise distracted or the result of a mechanical problem owing to illness or injury.

You might also notice that this happens more often with liquids. A sip of water may provoke a coughing attack. That’s because liquids move much more quickly, giving the body less time to react.

In extreme cases, food or liquids headed in the “wrong” direction can wind up in the lungs and cause pneumonia. Fortunately, that’s uncommon, and coughing tends to get the food moving back into the esophagus.

The best way to minimize the chances of getting food stuck is to avoid talking with your mouth full—yes, your parents were right—and thoroughly chew sensible portions.

If you experience repeated bouts of aspiration, it’s possible an underlying swallowing disorder or neurological problem is to blame. An X-ray or other tests can help diagnose the issue.

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