Food Feature: Roasting the Harvest

I’m very fond of roasted vegetables, and now that cooler weather is drifting into the kitchen from outdoors, I am happy to fire up the oven and enjoy them again. Harvest time provides an abundance of fruits and vegetables ripe and perfect for roasting – they’re heaped in baskets at markets and supermarkets everywhere.

Roasting is an oven technique that requires a higher heat than baking. It’s a fast-cooking method that draws out and caramelizes the natural sugars on the outside while concentrating and deepening the flavours on the inside. Thick, firm, and juicy-fleshed fruits such as plums, apricots, and cherries, and all kinds of vegetables such as beets, onions, squash, turnip, carrots, parsnips, eggplant, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, and asparagus, benefit from roasting. What follows is my basic recipe for roasting fruits or vegetables.

Roasted Vegetables or Fruits


Roasted Vegetables or Fruits

Roasted fruits and vegetables will blacken slightly around the edges and will be shriveled in appearance. For this reason, they are often used in casseroles, soups, and puréed dishes.

(Serves 4)


  • 3 cups quartered vegetables or pitted fruit
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (see Tip)

1) Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

2) Toss vegetables or fruit with oil and herbs on lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast in the lower half of a preheated oven for 25 to 45 minutes or until browned and tender.

3) Tip: Use rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, parsley, basil or savory in any combination.

Roasted Garlic

Roasted Garlic

Fresh Ontario garlic is available now from any of the farmers who visit the city every week, and my advice is to buy it in bulk and use it all winter in robust dishes. One of my favourite ways to use garlic in cooking is to roast the whole head. Whole roasted garlic bulbs morph into a sweet and meltingly tender pulp with a deceptively mellow and nutty flavour that is versatile and delicious in fall dishes. Roasting garlic is easy. I like to roast two or three heads at a time because generally I substitute one whole head in place of one or two bulbs in a recipe. I use roasted garlic in spreads and dips and as a flavouring for sauce, soup, and stew.

For roasting garlic, I prefer to use a small heatproof baking dish with a lid instead of aluminum foil, and there are electric and terra cotta garlic roasting pots widely available online and in kitchen supply stores. The method is easy and my recipe follows:

(Makes 1 head)


  • 1 whole head garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil

1) Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)

2) Remove the loose, papery skin from the garlic head and slice and discard ¼ inch off the tips of the cloves in the entire head. Place the garlic head cut side up in small heatproof baking dish and drizzle with oil. Cover with a lid or foil. Bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until garlic is quite soft. Transfer to a cooling rack. If using a clay garlic roaster with a lid, roast at 375°F (190°C) for 35 to 40 minutes.

3) When garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves from their skins. It is now ready to use in any recipe that calls for roasted garlic.

Black Bean and Roasted Garlic Spread

In this recipe, the roasted garlic lends a sweetly subtle garlic flavour to the robust beans. (Makes 1½ cups)


  • 4 whole garlic heads
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed, or 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (approx.)
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar (approx.)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

1) Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

2) Remove the loose, papery skin from the garlic heads and slice and discard 1/4 inch off the tips of the cloves in the entire head, leaving the whole head intact. Place the garlic heads cut side up in 8-inch (2 L) baking dish, drizzle each with 1½ tsp of the olive oil. Cover with a lid or foil and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until garlic is quite soft. Transfer to a cooling rack.

3) When garlic is cool enough to handle, place black beans in bowl of a food processor. Squeeze cloves from their skins into the same food processor and process for about 30 seconds until smooth. With the motor running, add remaining 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, lemon juice, and vinegar and process for about 10 seconds or until combined. Taste and add salt and pepper, adjust lemon juice and vinegar as required. Store spread, tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

4) Serving suggestion: Use this easy-to-prepare spread on crackers or crudités for canapés. Stuff into wraps or pita pockets or spread on toasted whole wheat bread slices and combine with a salad for a light meal.

Chicken with Roasted Black Plums and Greens

This is a mildly spiced chicken dish that is very delicately flavoured and delicious over egg noodles or plain couscous. Even with their skins intact before cooking, the plums simply disappear into the sauce, adding to the complexity of the overall taste.

(Makes 4 servings)


  • 6 black or red plums, sliced
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, tops trimmed
  • ¼ cup avocado or olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp Garam Masala or Moroccan spice blend
  • 4 skinless bone-in chicken breasts (about 3 lb/1.5 kg)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage

1) Preheat oven to 375°F (185°C).

2) On parchment-lined baking sheet arrange plums, onions, and garlic head in a single layer. Drizzle with avocado oil. Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and set aside.

3) In the bottom of a flameproof Dutch oven, heat remaining oil over medium heat. Add spice blend and cook, stirring for 1 minute or until melted into the oil. Add chicken, meaty side down, sliding breasts around to coat with spice blend. Cook for about 5 minutes or until chicken is browned on meaty side.

4) Add roasted plums and onions, and squeeze garlic into the pot. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Add tahini and stir until incorporated. Add cabbage, reduce heat to medium-low to keep the sauce bubbling and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat as necessary, for 12 to 16 minutes or until chicken is cooked through with no hint of pink. Season with salt to taste at the table.

Roasted Eggplant

Roasted Eggplant with Walnut Sauce

The creamy centre of roasted eggplant is contrasted in this dish by the crispy browned texture of the outside as a result of roasting. One of the keys to roasting eggplant is to slice it at a thickness of 3/8 inches because if thinner, the slices will dry out and if thicker, they will not cook on the inside. This recipe is easily doubled. (Serves 2 as a main course or 4 side dishes)


  • 1 medium eggplant, trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • Avocado or olive oil
  • ½ cup Walnut Sauce

1) Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

2) Slice eggplant crosswise in 3/8-inch thick rounds. In a large colander, arrange one layer of rounds and sprinkle 1 tsp of the salt over top. Repeat layering and salting. Let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Arrange in one layer on lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush the tops lightly with oil.

3) Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, in batches if necessary. Turn and bake another 8 to 10 minutes or until both sides are golden brown. Transfer to a warmed serving platter or individual plates.

4) Spoon Walnut Sauce over top and serve immediately.

Walnut Sauce

This makes a fairly thick sauce that can be used as a topping for vegetables, in lasagna, as a spread, and as a dip.

(Makes 2 cups)


  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, divided
  • 1 cup warm water, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 piece candied ginger
  • 2 slices whole-grain bread, torn into chunks
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp salt, optional
  • Freshly ground pepper

1) In a small bowl, cover ½ cup of the walnuts with ½ cup of the water. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or for up to 6 hours.

2) Meanwhile, chop remaining walnuts slightly more than coarse but not fine. Set aside.

3) Drain and rinse soaked walnuts and place in food processor. Add garlic and ginger and pulse to chop and combine. Add bread, lemon juice, oil, mustard, salt, if using, and pepper, to taste, and pulse to combine. With motor running, add remaining water through opening in the lid. Stop and scrape down sides of the bowl. Pulse until the mixture is very smooth. Taste and add more mustard, lemon juice or salt, if required.

4) Transfer purée to a small bowl and stir in reserved walnuts. Use immediately.

5) Tip: store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

6) To make a thinner sauce – with motor of food processor running when adding ingredients, slowly add more water through opening in the lid until desired consistency is achieved.

Roasted Red Peppers

Photo of roasted red peppers by Pat Crocker

Roasted Peppers with Wild Rice and Walnuts

Something magical happens when red bell peppers are roasted. In addition to the soft sweetness, there is an earthy quality that is imparted and it seems to engage our sense of the sublime.

(Serves 4 or 8)


  • 4 red bell peppers, cored and cut in half
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chopped shiitake mushroom caps
  • 1 cup chopped seeded tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup Basil Pesto or store-bought
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

1) Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)

2) Arrange bell peppers cut side down on lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast on top rack of preheated oven for 10 minutes or until slightly softened. Remove from oven (do not turn oven off) and flip pepper over so cut sides are up. Set aside.

3) Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for 7 minutes or until soft. Stir in tomato, pesto, anchovies, if using, and rice. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in walnuts and Parmesan. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

4) Spoon rice stuffing evenly into pepper halves. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes (400°F oven) or until peppers are soft and filling is bubbly. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Roasted Onion Parsnip Gratin with Greens

You can use tender fresh greens such as collard, kale, Swiss chard, beet tops, bok choy or spinach in this recipe. Serve over cooked whole grains for a complete meal.

(Serves 4)


  • 2 Vidalia onions, quartered
  • 4 parsnips, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup dry whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 4 cups greens, torn
  • 2 cups Classic Cheese Sauce

1) Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

2) In 10-cup casserole dish, toss onions, parsnips, and garlic with oil. Roast in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Add breadcrumbs and toss to combine. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F (180°C) and bake vegetables for another 20 minutes or until tender.

3) Remove casserole from oven. Stir in greens, pour Cheese Sauce over top and return to oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Serve immediately.

Cheese Sauce

The “classic” cheese sauce is made with a white sauce (butter, flour, milk) and grated cheese. Our updated vegetarian version uses whole wheat flour, and rice, almond, or soy milk instead of cow’s milk. Also oil is used in place of the butter, and the recipe adds some not-so-classic but flavourful ingredients, such as tamari and nutmeg.

(Makes 1 cup)


  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp whole wheat or spelt flour
  • 1 tsp brewer’s yeast
  • 1 cup rice or soy milk
  • ¼ cup shredded Swiss or Cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

1) In a saucepan, combine garlic and oil. Sauté over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and soft. Add flour and yeast, and stir to make a paste. Gradually whisk in milk and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 or 6 minutes or until thickened.

2) Stir in Swiss and Parmesan cheeses and cook, stirring, for 1 or 2 minutes or until melted. Stir in tamari and nutmeg. Serve immediately.

3) Tip: Increase or reduce the milk by 3 Tbsp to achieve either a thicker or a thinner sauce.

Yellow Coconut Curry Sauce

Yellow Coconut Curry Sauce

Put this easy-to-make sauce to work with steamed, roasted or stir-fried vegetables, or use it with pasta or rice. It combines well with nuts, lentils and rice, making those ingredients so much more interesting. Double or triple this tasty sauce for convenience. (Makes 1 cup)

* Note: Galangal is an edible root, similar to ginger, but with a different, tart flavour. The fresh root is rarely available in Toronto, but dried galangal is often found in blocks – similar to the blocks of dates – in health food stores.


  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ onion
  • 6 dried apricot halves
  • 2 cloves garlic or 8 cloves roasted garlic
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp coarsely chopped galangal*
  • 2 tsp miso paste
  • 1 tsp chile flakes
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, optional

1) In a blender, combine coconut milk, onion, apricot halves, garlic, lemon juice and zest, galangal, miso and chile flakes. Process on high until blended.

2) In a saucepan, combine coriander, caraway, fennel, fenugreek and turmeric. Toast over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the seeds begin to pop and their fragrance is released. Scrape the coconut mixture into the saucepan and bring to a light simmer. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick and creamy.

3) Strain into a bowl and stir in the coconut if using.

4) To store: Place hot sauce into a glass Mason jar, screw on lid, and place in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Or place in plastic container and freeze for up to 3 months.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

I love this sauce on pasta and bruschetta, or with fish and chicken. It is colourful and tasty. There are some very good roasted peppers in jars and if you are using them, use the garlic that is usually packed with the peppers. Drain and save the marinade as a substitute for the vinegar in the recipe. (Makes 2 cups)


  • 2 roasted red peppers or 1 jar (500 ml roasted red peppers, drained)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-¼ cups slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

1) In a food processor or blender, combine peppers, garlic, almonds and basil. Process until finely chopped.

2) With the motor running, add the vinegar and oil through the opening in the lid and process until the sauce is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3) Store sauce tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


Pat Crocker roasts red peppers in her charcoal barbecue by the hundreds in the fall. She is a Culinary Herbalist, Home Economist and healthy food writer. Photographer, lecturer and author of several award-winning books, Pat’s latest book Preserving is now available. Her other books including Everyday Flexitarian (with co-author Nettie Cronish), The Yogurt Bible, The Vegan Cook’s Bible, The Vegetarian Cook’s Bible, The Juicing Bible and The Smoothies Bible are available at bookstores throughout Canada and the United States., blog:

As a professional Home Economist (BAA, Ryerson U., Toronto) and Culinary Herbalist, Pat’s passion for healthy food is fused with her knowledge and love of herbs. She has honed her wellness practice over more than four decades of growing, photographing, and writing about what she calls, the helping plants. In fact, Crocker infuses the medicinal benefits of herbs in every original recipe she develops. An award-winning author, Pat has written 23 herb/healthy cookbooks, including The Healing Herbs Cookbook,The Juicing Bible, and her latest, Cooking with Cannabis (Sterling) and The Herbalist’s Kitchen (Sterling, 2018).

Write a Comment

view all comments