Have you ever gotten stuck in a dinner rut and you didn’t know how to get yourself out? You get so bogged down with making what you know, that you forget that creative makes you feel good. If you feel rut-like, my advice is to go shopping in Ellicott City, making sure to visit The Good Life and Mon Amie. Those two stores put you out of your rutty misery in a flash! They brighten and infuse your creative genius just by stepping inside and browsing through the gifts, specialty foods and pretty decorations. Once your creative genius is sparked, create this dish.
I say spark your own creative because the roasted vegetables are what you like, not what I like. I personally like to roast butternut squash, portabella mushrooms, onions, asparagus, yellow squash and zucchini. I am not a fan of cooked carrots but you might be. I am also not a fan of turnips, eggplant or acorn squash but again, that might fit your fancy. You’re strange but that’s what makes this world go round, y’know?
I do know that cutting up any of those squashes can be a bit on the stubborn, “Why the heck am I doing this? I like these thumbs…” kind of insanity but in the end, roasted squash is divine…just don’t join the divine in the cutting process.
So after you’ve picked your favorite veggies for their roast, cut in thick chunks, trying to make all the chunk sizes similar in size; this helps with an even cooking time. Season with sea salt, pepper, either thyme, rosemary or oregano (and if these are fresh from the garden, even better; if not, about 1T dry), splatter some rice wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar (the carmelization of the veggies goes well with the tart of the balsamic) and of course, olive oil or a blended oil (I have to figure out what the Iron Chef means by that so if you know, let me know!) or if you like, butter or a mixture between butter and oil. Butter adds the just-like-momma-cooked flavor and oil is the new butter.
Put the pan in the oven, covered with foil for about an hour on 350. Check the tenderness of the veggies. If they are close to done-ness, uncover and let cook for about another 20-30 minutes to get the veggies nice and brown. Brown is a lovely color in roasted veggies. The cool thing about roasting veggies is they retain their goodness, unlike boiling or canning where you basically wash away all their goodness and you might as well enjoy your chili, cheese fries.
At the time the veggies go in the oven, put the potatoes in the oven. You can do like the restaurants and fork the potatoes, smother with salt, pepper and olive oil and cover with foil or you can just throw them in after poking with a fork (but please poke some holes into the potatoes or you will hear the sounds of firecrackers and the oven is not quite the place for those sounds!) This is how I get away with the “one-pot” – you get a meal but you’re only using one pot essentially. I love being a genius.
While all that is cooking, you can either make your own pesto or you can go to the store and buy a nice, pre-made pesto sauce from the refrigerated section. My recipe takes a food processor so if you are new to cooking or have no idea how to work yours as its still sitting in its box and it was a gift from Aunt Hilda from your first wedding, your current wife never has to know.
4cups of fresh basil leaves (really nice heaping hands-full)
1T chopped garlic
4T pine nuts or walnuts or go nuts with something else
3/4 cups olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Into the food processor, blend the basil leaves, garlic, nuts and 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Then, stop, clean the sides of the processor. Turn back on and into the so-called spouty part of the processor, pour the rest of the olive oil….congratulations, you are emulsifying. And you thought you could only roast a veggie! Then add the parmesan cheese. Ta-da. Pesto.
To plate up this delightful dish, unwrap or just cut open the baked potato. Season with some butter or pepper or even a dab of pesto. Top with roasted veggies and carefully spoon the pesto around so that it delicately graces the veggies and is the complement to your hard work.
This goes nice with a funny movie and a glass of white Riesling.