There are times when I'm annoyed with the question and want to snap back with a text that says, "I don't know, figure it out!" but lately, and especially because I have my appetite back, I'm excited to answer it:
"Hey love, do you have a plan for dinner?" John will often text me late in the afternoon with this question.
I love when I can answer that text with a meal I've actually somewhat planned and not just frantically thrown together... cue, these veggie bowls.
Roasted veggies (particularly for roasted veggie bowls) are my back pocket, solve any I don’t-know-what-to-make-for-dinner-solution. And, spring carrots were on sale at my local grocer, so! I pared up some more veg to go with it from there and boom, dinner was planned.
I hope these simple tips (and very liberal "recipe") will allow you to get your creative juices flowing with all of the possibilities a roasted veg dinner can bring. This is roasted veggie bowl business is probably old hat to many of you, but hopefully this particular spring carrot + garlic + leek + eggplant + zucchini + feta combo bowl is something you'd like to try.
Here are some of my favorite tips for making an incredible roasted spring veggie bowl:
1. Get veggies that are in season. This may seem so “duh”, but really, your seasonal veg is not only going to taste way better, but it will be cheaper too. Like I said, my local grocer was having a sale on spring carrot bunches, so! Carrots for dinner it was. Also, farmers markets always have the best deals on veggies. Go forth and shop!
2. Coat your veg in plenty of olive oil. Don’t be skimpy or worry about calories here. I hope you’re able to tell from the pictures that you want to generously coat each veggie piece with olive oil, and then sprinkle generously with salt before you pop them in the oven. I love salting my veg before they cook, they’re so much more flavorful that way.
3. Try not to crowd the veggies on the pan. I crowded zucchini a bit too much here, which I knew I was doing, but I was in a hurry and didn’t care. If you leave a small space between your veggies, and don’t pile them on top of each other, they’ll roast nicely, have more flavor and a slight crunch. Crowded veggies makes the veg “steam” in their own juices and you lack that nice crisp roasted crust.
4. Cut your veggies into similarly sized pieces to roast. Experiment with different cuts to see what cut you like best, for each veggie. For example, I love eggplant cut into “coins” because it crisps them up nicely. I like carrots left almost whole, peeled, but with some of their tops left on.
5. Pick a grain any grain. I love quinoa, rice, millet, farro and barley. And - as a big time saving secret, I actually cook my grains in a rice cooker. I’m all about not having unnecessary gadgets in the kitchen, but my rice cooker, is my one exception. I love this thing. I got it as a wedding present years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. What I love most about it, is it cooks my grains perfectly every time - so I don’t have to check on them AT ALL. I literally dump and forget. Are grains super easy to cook on the stovetop? YES! Am I SO lazy about cooking grains?! YES! ;) (Hi Robin I love my rice cooker!;)
6. Top it all off. Cheese, nuts, fresh herbs or even just a simple pad of butter, make for great toppings. Here, I chose feta cheese. Feta, goat cheese and ricotta are frequent toppers for my veggie bowls. I wish I had some fresh thyme here, but I didn't, and a trip to the store again was asking too much. ;)
A sauce or dressing is wonderful here too, BUT, this is my stripped down completely naked version of a veggie bowl. It’s simply no fuss, and allows you to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. It will make you want to answer that "what's for dinner?" text message with a winky face instead of snapping back. Tell me I'm not alone here?
Love you friends. xo
roasted spring veggie bowl:
serves 4 as a main dish
For this roasted veggie bowl, I threw whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic onto the sheet pans. Once it’s all done roasting, I serve the whole roasted cloves in their pods with the veggies and encourage guests to squeeze the soft, caramelized filling into their quinoa and mix it a bit. It's SO good and simple... and fun!
note: The crispy leeks here are my favorite. You can easily cut this recipe in half for two people, but uh, keep all the leeks in there okay? They're too good. One more thing. I used 3 sheet pans total for this, and two ovens. If you don't have two ovens one oven will do, but take note you'll have to rotate your pans half way through and the roasting time will take just a tiny bit longer.
2 large bunches of carrots, one purple, one orange peeled and cut into large pieces
4 large zucchini, cut lengthwise and then in half again
4 small, Italian eggplants, cut into coins
3 large leeks, cleaned and cut into coins
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled
whole milk, greek-style feta cheese to top
4 cups cooked quinoa, tossed in about 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and bit of kosher salt.
Cut and coat veggies in a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and spread on a sheet pan.
Roast veggies + unpeeled garlic for about 20-25 minutes at 375°F / 1990° C
tip! If you have a fancy oven, the convection setting here will allow you to roast all of these veggies a little faster, say 15 minutes at 350° F/ 180°C temp.
As soon as the veggies hit the oven, cook the quinoa according to package instructions so you can get it all on the table at the same time. When quinoa is cooked, stir in some pads of butter and some kosher salt to taste.
Serve veg on top of quinoa and sprinkle with feta cheese. Make sure you explain the bit about squeezing the caramelized garlic pod into your bowl and mixing it with your grain to your loved ones. Ah, heaven. A squeeze of lemon is fantastic here too. And, bonus! The leftovers make a great lunch.
why is this good for me?
quinoa - it's gluten free and a "complete" grain, meaning it contains protein and is often considered a meal all by itself!
carrots - go here.
garlic - has selenium. Selenium works with vitamin e, to protect our tissues from degenerating. It also helps fight agains heart disease. It also contains allicin - a phytochemical, which acts as nature's medicine for our bodies, allowing us to fight off sickness before we ever get sick.