Updated: Jan 4, 2020
Winter veggies are here: butternut squash, pumpkins, kale, carrots, brussles sprouts, delicata, leeks, beets and many more. The best way to celebrate these veggies is to roast them.
The benefits of roasting vegetables are many. Not only is it a fairly hands-off method, but you don’t even need a recipe or any additional ingredients besides a good cooking oil, a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, and some salt. Roasting also adds a savory depth of flavor one can only achieve once the Maillard reaction and a bit of caramelization have occurred, and crispy edges, which are a textural delight. Some people believe that cooking vegetables at a high heat will kill all of the nutrients in vegetables. The fact is that all forms of cooking can destroy some of the nutrients (such as vitamin C and B vitamins) in vegetables. But the flip side is that some nutrients actually become more bioavailable when vegetables are cooked, since cooking helps release the nutrients from the cell walls of the plant. These include nutrients in the carotenoid family, such as lycopene (found in tomatoes and red peppers) and beta-carotene (in carrots, spinach and kale). Mushrooms, asparagus and cabbage supply more antioxidant compounds when cooked compared with raw. And antioxidant compounds in foods we eat may help protect against cancer and other diseases. One caveat: Charring can cause the formation of acrylamides (potential cancer-causing chemicals), particularly in starchy foods such as potatoes. Instead, roast your starchy veggies to a golden brown. Meanwhile, some nutrients, such as vitamin B-6 and folate in broccoli and the polyphenols (micronutrients that help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease) in onions are better preserved in raw fruits and vegetables. So, it’s good to enjoy a diet that has some raw and some cooked foods to gain the benefits of each. If you like roasted vegetables, continue to enjoy them. If you haven't tried roasting your vegetables, I highly recommend it.
Why do people add balsamic vinegar to roasting vegetables?
I always add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to veggies before roasting. The harsh acidity will completely cook away during the roasting process, but the end result is incredibly flavorful vegetables with a savory sweetness and an extra kick. Any type of vinegar does the trick, from balsamic to apple cider to red wine, but the slight flavor variations add new dimensions to whatever you’re roasting. It’s beautiful in its simplicity—and can be easily accomplished with an ingredient you have at home. Good recipes will typically include a source of acid. Citrus, vinegar, wine, tomatoes, fermented foods (including cheese, pickles and beer) are all considered acidic foods. I love making sauces or dressings that include acid to top almost any dish.