Apples, cauliflower, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, cranberries . . . you name it, you can probably roast it. Starting with this applesauce.
My roasting memories involve a chunk of meat on Sundays with a pile of vegetables that were conveniently roasted along side. The word roast was synonymous with the meat so I grew up assuming that you must have to have a piece of meat to legitimize the roasting. Not so much. Roasting has come into its own as a process that adds dimension and a culinary exclamation point to any fruit or vegetable. And that would be FLAVOR.
On a roasting bandwagon, I consulted the internet to find out something about the science and was immediately delivered to Wikipedia and introduced to the Maillard Reaction. A lot of scientific jargon in the first couple of paragraphs, but the bottom line is flavorization (my language).
“The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring heat.”
“In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds in turn break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavor scientists have used over the years to create artificial flavors.”
A devotee of almost anything roasted as the easiest and most delicious mode of preparing vegetables and fruits, especially when it’s cool outside, I hadn’t thought about applesauce until now. You literally pile the ingredients into a big pot, put the lid on and leave it alone. Take it out, stir and you have applesauce that, for me, surpasses anything I’ve had before. The same sort of epiphany I had with tomato sauce this summer – just roast ’em dammit, and the sauce will reveal itself.
Roasted Applesauce Recipe
Ten, fifteen minutes of prep.
Ingredients Place together in a large roaster: 6 or 8 peeled and quartered apples (I used Braeburns & Granny Smiths)/ 1/3 – 1/2 C brown sugar/ 1/2 – 1 t cinnamon/ 1/2 C apple, orange juice or water (I used apple juice)/ Sprinkle with a big pinch of salt/ If you’ve used a red apple, place a couple of long strips of peel onto the top, easily removed later and it adds color to the sauce.
Directions: Lid on, place in a 350º oven for 45 minutes; stir apple mixture and return to oven for another 30/35 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir together thoroughly, including scraping the darkened caramelization from around the edge of the pan. This applesauce is thick, which is part of its appeal. Eight apples yields about 4 cups of sauce.
This has the potential to burn after about 75 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot. Set a timer, don’t lose track.
While apples are roasting, make a mustardy/garlicky rub for a pork loin. This herb topping is a guideline for any ingredients you’d like to emphasize. Mix it up and spread it over the top of the pork. For a 2# roast: 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic, 1 1/2 t finely chopped fresh rosemary, 1 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, 1 T mustard, 1 t olive oil. Stir together and pat the mixture over the top of the pork. Make more or less of this rub as you like. You can’t mess it up. Cook at 400º for ten minutes, turn down to 325º and continue to roast to an internal temperature of 160º, which will take another 35/40 minutes, depending.
Easy dinner. Aromatic, herb encrusted slices of this roasted pork – cooked in the oven along with the apples, together with the deliciously flavored pan juices – precipitated a collective family swoon the other night. Second thought, maybe it was the World Series.
It’s possible these days to buy pork that’s sustainably raised, local or at least regional in origin. PCC carries Pure Country Pork from Euphrata, WA , for example. Sea Breeze Farm has pork available at some Seattle Farmers Markets, and Audrey from Eat Local Northwest tells me that Lopez Island Farm pork is excellent.
Roasted Spicy Cauliflower
Preheat oven to 425º/ Slice the cauliflower into 3/4″ wide sections, or cut into florets/ Place cauliflower on a parchment-lined baking pan, drizzle with olive oil/ In a small dish mix 1/2 t turmeric, 1 t cumin, 1/2 t chili powder, 1/2 t paprika, 1/2 t salt, & pepper to taste/ Sprinkle this over the cauliflower/ Gently toss florets/ Roast uncovered for 20 – 25 minutes or until fairly tender. Remove from oven, add a sprinkle of sea salt and serve.
During roasting natural sugars are seduced and reawakened. Vegetables and fruits caramelize and darken, signaling that the science has happened and it’s gonna taste good. Roasting elicits something extraordinary in vegetables and fruit that we might as well take advantage of. It’s easy cooking. Pop it in the oven, set a timer and walk away. Brussels sprouts in the backyard, you’re next.
More roasting possibilities: Oven Fried Sweets (sweet potatoes) from Shelley at the Tom Douglas blog.
Previous MG roasting postings:
Gourmet magazine, November 2009, inspired the roasting of cauliflower, and Mangochild host of the Living in the Local Zone blog inspired its spicy rub. Ima Garten, Food Channel, opened my eyes to oven-roasted applesauce. Check out her oven-roasted vegetables. Fellow cooks, thank you.
Turn on the oven and roast on.