I wow my co-workers with my culinary prowess at least once a week. No, I don’t bring baked goodies to work. Nor do I feast on elaborate leftovers. It’s my “vegetables with stuff” that impress. I often roast whatever veggies I have in the fridge and mix them with cheese, herbs, dressing and maybe chicken or fish for lunch the next day. These salads, even when eaten out of a plastic container, look colorful and pretty. Served on real plates, my lunches look like something out of Gourmet (or maybe the Whole Foods salad bar, but you get my point).
My salads revolve around some combo of zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, cauliflower and carrots. Is there an easier way to cook these vegetables than to roast them? You cut ‘em up, toss them in a foil-lined baking dish with a splash of olive oil and some kosher salt and pepper, and stick 'em in the oven for a while.
I usually roast at 420 or 425; peppers take about 45 minutes; zucchini, asparagus and carrots, 20 minutes; see this for more on tomatoes and cauliflower. Cooking chemistry does its thing, and the vegetables emerge from the oven sweet and nutty. (I also like to roast fruit: once, I made a delicious roast chicken with grapes and pitted cherries -spread the fruit in a roasting pan, plop a prepped chicken on top, and follow your usual method. Past-their-prime strawberries, peaches, apples and pears all improve in the oven. Add some caramelized onions to your roasted fruit, and voila: instant chutney.)
I top the cooled vegetables with scallions, dill or parsley, olives, if I have them, and goat or feta cheese. For the dressing, I usually use olive oil, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, or some red wine vinegar. Sometimes I mix in a little roasted garlic. Or I make creamy dressings with mayo, plain yogurt or sour cream, and olive oil.