Roasting is a classical cooking technique–and for good reason! Roasting is an excellent way to caramelize foods and add sweet and umami flavors to a dish. This is a particularly useful technique when making plant-based dishes or those with a lot of vegetables.
Roasting: to cook uncovered, without liquid (i.e. dry heat), usually in moderate to high heat.
Umami: is the fifth flavor (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami) and is a savory, meaty taste.
Some umami can be achieved by browning foods and occurs naturally in some plant foods including vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, sea vegetables/seaweed, cabbages, celery), fermented foods (soy sauce, some vinegars, miso, sauerkraut), spices (cumin, paprika), green tea, nutritional yeast and Vegemite.
Other foods that are umami include some dairy products (parmesan and other aged cheeses), fish, shellfish, fermented seafood products (shrimp paste, fish sauce) and cured meats. Note that these options are generally high in sodium (e.g., fermented, aged and cured products). Cured meats are also associated with weight gain, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.
While it is healthier to stick with the plant-based umami options above, if you do use any from the second list, fish and shellfish are the best options because they contain omega-3 fatty acids important for heart health, brain development and reduction of inflammation. We must get these in the diet because humans cannot make them in the body–they are what we call an essential nutrient. Plant sources of omega-3’s include nuts, flaxseeds, vegetable oils, leafy greens and sea vegetables (more on this in a future post!).
Back to ROASTING…
Since we like to stay seasonal here at Chef In Medicine, the roasting example that we’ll use today is butternut squash. Cutting up a butternut squash can be daunting for some cooks due to its large size and hard flesh. By the time you finish reading this tutorial, I am confident that you can do it!
First, you need a couple of basic tools:
- cutting board with a towel underneath to prevent the board from slipping
- a sharp chef’s knife (this is the one I use, but here is an excellent, more affordable alternative)
Next, cut off both the stem and bottom ends of the squash. Then use the Y-peeler to peel. This takes some getting used to, but is definitely the easiest, safest way that I’ve found to peel butternut squash. Note: if you’re mixing roasted squash into another dish, be sure to peel. But, if you want to eat roasted butternut squash alone as a side dish, you can omit the peeling step if desired.
Then, cut the bulbous portion off and cut this in half lengthwise to expose the seeds. This is where it is important to have a sharp knife. A dull knife makes you more likely to slip and cut yourself during this step. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and discard.
Cube or slice the butternut squash into the shape you want to roast.
I like to cut the squash into 1-inch cubes, toss in just enough olive oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place in a single layer on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (If you have smaller, 13×9-inch sheet pans, you may need to use 2 pans). Roast uncovered in a 425 degree convection oven or 450 degree standard oven for 15 minutes, flip/stir cubes, return to oven and cook until they give little to no resistance when pierced with a fork.
This roasted butternut squash is delicious served as is for a side dish or stirred into any number of other dishes. I recently added these sweet and savory morsels to Quinoa, Black Bean and Butternut Squash Salad with Lime Vinaigrette–yum!
Many other flavors can be added to the butternut squash before roasting to make it taste completely different. Try tossing with a bit of cumin and paprika; or chopped fresh rosemary, thyme or sage; at the salt and pepper step, just before putting into the oven.Print
Roasted Butternut Squash
Roasted butternut squash makes a great side or addition to any dish.
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Method: Roasting
- 1 large butternut squash
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Pinch salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit if using convection, or 450 if using a regular oven.
- Follow the instructions in the post to peel and remove the seeds from the butternut squash. Cut into 1-inch cubes.
- Place cubes in a medium or large mixing bowl and toss with just enough olive oil to lightly coat, approximately 1 tablespoon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, or other seasonings and herbs, if desired.
- Place cubed squash in a single layer on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (If you have smaller, 13×9-inch sheet pans, you may need to use 2 pans). If you don’t want to use oil, then the silicone baking mat is especially helpful to prevent sticking.
- Roast uncovered for 15 minutes, flip/stir cubes, return to oven and cook until they give little resistance when pierced with a fork, about 15-20 more minutes.
- This roasted butternut squash is great as a side dish or stirred into another dish, like Quinoa, Black Bean, Butternut Squash Salad with Lime Vinaigrette.
- Roasted squash reheats well, so make extra to use in other meals.
- Other flavoring options include spices (cumin, paprika), or fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme or sage).
Nutritional Info (per serving): Calories 109, Total Fat 3.6g, Saturated Fat 0.5g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 152mg, Total Carbohydrate 20.6g, Dietary Fiber 3.5g, Sugars 3.9g, Protein 1.8g, Vitamin A 103%, Vitamin C 61%, Calcium 8%, Iron 7%