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Tips for Roasting Winter Vegetables

To achieve optimal flavor and texture when roasting vegetables, keep these tips in mind:

- Select produce that is ripe and at the peak of flavor (roasting cannot bring out flavors that are not already present).

- Always cut vegetables into uniform pieces, as varying shapes and sizes will yield unevenly cooked food. Smaller pieces are generally best because they reduce the roasting time and allow for more caramelization on their surfaces and hence, fuller flavor.

- Use a pan that is just large enough to hold the vegetables in a single layer without crowding. If the pieces are too snugly packed, they will steam rather than brown. A heavy-gauge rimmed baking sheet has a good-sized cooking surface and is often an excellent choice.

- Vegetables are usually coated with oil or melted butter before roasting to protect their surfaces from drying out and to promote browning.

- To test roasted vegetables for doneness, first assess them visually: they should have an even golden to light brown color, indicating that browning is complete. Insert the tip of a sharp knife or the tines of a fork into a piece; it should yield easily but not be too soft. Follow the doneness cues in your recipe indicating whether the vegetable should be just tender or soft.

- Taste the vegetables before serving to check for seasoning and sweetness. A sprinkle of salt or sugar or a few grinds of pepper may be needed to heighten the roasted flavors.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Roasting, by Melanie Barnard, Bob & Coleen Simmons, Tori Ritchie & Amanda Haas (Oxmoor House, 2009).