In the summer when vegetables are at their peak and available at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and CSAs, consumers (including myself) turn their culinary attention to making colorful and crunchy salads, bruschetta topped with vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh basil, and asparagus, zucchini, squash, and even sweet potatoes cooked on the backyard grill.
On days when the breeze is blowing and the temperature outside isn’t too high, consider roasting as well. Three of summer’s most abundant and unexpected vegetables—radishes, beets, and grape and cherry tomatoes—lend themselves beautifully to oven roasting, and the technique for all three is quite different.
For dietitians who counsel clients on the importance of incorporating more vegetables into their daily diets and RDs who conduct cooking classes or demos, these three oven-roasted summer vegetables are designed to inspire an increase in consumption and enjoyment of the season’s freshest produce.
Radishes are one of those vegetables you either love or hate. They have a peppery, somewhat spicy flavor, which can be a barrier to acceptance. For radish lovers, there are many ways to enjoy them: Slice and add to salads, tacos, or wraps or do what the French do and dip them in butter and sea salt. To turn radish haters into lovers, I recommend roasting them, a process that brings out their naturally sweet and juicy flavor.
How to: Wash radishes well under cold running water. Trim the stem and root ends and then slice each radish in half. Pat dry with a paper towel, place in a bowl, and toss with a few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil until well coated. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. For added flavor, stir in a sprinkling of chopped fresh thyme or rosemary. Line a baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil and arrange the radishes, cut-side down, evenly on top. Roast at 450° F for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bottoms are golden and the radishes are tender. Let cool a few minutes, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper to taste, and eat them like candy.
Beets have an earthy flavor, which some people describe as tasting like “dirt.” Personally, I adore beets when they’re roasted, because, as with all veggies, their natural sweetness is released during the cooking process. Roasted beets can be sliced or diced and added to salads, and, in the summer, pickling is another tasty option. Roasting is easy, though it takes a bit more time and patience.
How to: Trim the stalk and root ends of the beets. Scrub to remove any dirt and pat dry with a paper towel. Place each beet on a piece of aluminum foil large enough for wrapping. Drizzle with about half teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Wrap loosely with the foil and place all “packets” on a large baking sheet. (If using small beets, you can wrap a few together.) Roast at 400° F for about one hour. Check carefully at 50 minutes to make sure the beets aren’t scorching. If they are, drizzle with a few teaspoons of water and then rewrap. They’re done when you can easily insert a fork or toothpick into the center. Remove the beets from the oven, carefully vent the packets, and let cool. Peel away the skin with a paring knife. (I wear disposable plastic kitchen gloves when I do this so my hands don’t turn magenta.)
Grape or Cherry Tomatoes
Tomatoes are versatile. They’re a delicious addition to BLTs, add interest to salads, and taste great when sliced and topped with fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. As for grape or cherry tomatoes, pop them into your mouth and eat as a snack. Tomatoes are sweet, and they get even sweeter when they’re slow roasted. (If you’ve had sun-dried tomatoes, that’s what slow-roasted tomatoes taste like.) In summer, slow-roasted cherry or grape tomatoes are a welcome addition to pasta dishes, omelets, pizzas, and salads.
How to: Slice tomatoes in half and place in a bowl with a few teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Add a sprinkling of chopped fresh thyme or rosemary for added flavor. Toss until the tomatoes are well coated with the oil. Line a baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and arrange the tomatoes, cut-side up, evenly on top. Roast at 250° F for three hours, until shriveled and dry.
To get kids excited about trying summer produce, I welcome you to download my free Farmers’ Market Scavenger Hunt and share it with fellow parents and patients.
Visit www.facebook.com/LizsHealthyTable/videos/10154519238301750 to watch a video on Facebook LIVE in which I demonstrate how to roast radishes and cherry/grape tomatoes.
— Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, is a mom of two with a specialty in family nutrition. She’s the voice behind the family food podcast Liz’s Healthy Table, and the blog and website by the same name. Liz has written several cookbooks including No Whine with Dinner: 150 Healthy Kid-Tested Recipes From the Meal Makeover Moms, The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers: Improving the Way Your Family Eats, One Meal at a Time!, and the playful new coloring book series Color, Cook, Eat!. Liz hosts the Meal Makeovers video series for CNN Accent Health, which runs in doctor’s offices nationwide.