This post describes a few techniques that I've used to cook up vegetables. I use these for all kinds of things like green beans, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, cauliflower, peppers, carrots, brussel sprouts, leeks, even okra.
All of these methods give similar results, but I choose based on the time of year and whether I have room on the top of the stove or in the oven.
I like vegetables that are somewhat browned, but not blackened (OK, maybe sometimes mine get a few little bits of black. But don't let that put you off.) Most are also still crisp tender. When you bite them there's still a bit of a crunch (just a bit). They are definitely not mushy. What this does to vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower is sweeten them somewhat by caramelizing their sugars. It also works well for vegetables that may be a weensy bit past their prime.
All the techniques have the same prep. Cut the vegetables into bite size pieces, toss them in a bowl and drizzle with oil (I usually use olive oil) and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir well. At this point you can add flavors that complement the rest of the meal. For example, we've stirred in a spoonful of curry paste to accompany Indian food and have used cumin, oregano and cayenne to go with Mexican food.
If you're clever, you can combine different types of vegetables and cook them all together, adding them at different times. You can also adjust for the different cooking times by cutting them in different size pieces, those requiring a longer time should be cut smaller. Generally, the denser the vegetable, the longer it takes. Or you can just cook them all in different batches, which is what I tend to do.
If I'm doing potatoes, I usually cut them, microwave them (till they are still somewhat uncooked, but can get a knife in them) and then oil and salt them before using one of the techniques below.
Heat a skillet over medium high. I usually use a non-stick skillet, but it certainly isn't necessary. If you don't use a non-stick, you might want to add a bit more oil to the pan just before adding the vegetables. Once you add the vegetables, you don’t want to stir it right away, other than initially spreading them out. Also, you shouldn't add so many of them that they're looking crowded. (Do them in more than one batch if that's the case.) Just let them sit there and sizzle for at least a few minutes. Go ahead and check one piece and don't stir or move things around until you're sure that it is fairly brown on the bottom. Since everyone's stove is different, you'll need to work with the temp a bit. You don't want it so hot that they're blackening before they've cooked inside, but you also don't want them cooked through before they've goldened up on the outside. Stir them around and let them cook another couple minutes. The best way to tell if they're done (and if you've got the temp right) is to taste one.
(That wrinkled looking asparagus is actually exactly what you want. The cauliflower could use a couple more minutes.)
Put them on either a baking dish, cookie sheet or a roasting pan, making sure not to crowd them (the spacing in the pic below is a good example). Toss them into a 425 degree oven. The length of time varies based on the vegetable (and the part of the vegetable- broccoli stems take a lot longer than broccoli florettes, unless you cut them in thin little slices). You'll want to stir it around a few times while they cook, just to make sure things aren't sticking and to let everything brown evenly. What you want is a sort of goldeny, almost-but-not-quite-burnt-in-places color.
(Actually, some of these are a lot less brown than I would normally make them. Good thing I took a picture, huh? But, like I said, cooking them individually yields the best results. Normally, when I get a nice brown layer on carrots, but they've still got a bit of bite, they are super yum.)
If you have one of those grill pans, great. If not, put a sheet of tin foil down on your grill. Dump the oiled and salted vegetables on it and spread them out. Like in the pan, they shouldn't be too crowded together. Now cook pretty much like on the stove top. Don't move them until you're sure they're browned on the bottom side. This method is a bit more difficult when it comes time to move them around, just be sure not to puncture the tin foil.
(This is how they look when they're done, not while they're cooking. It would be way too close to get a good brown color. I just mounded them up to get prettier pictures.)
How to Serve
Besides just tossing these out as a side dish, I've served these over both pasta (with a little extra olive oil) and rice. I've also chopped them up and stirred into either couscous or quinoa. They taste really good on top of sandwiches (think Italian sub) or over lettuce in a salad. The night I roasted these, though, we had them stirred into chicken soup just before serving. That way they didn't get all soggy and mushy.
I'll also be back later in the week with a recipe that can make good use of these these vegetables.
Added Note- Oops, I totally forgot to add that Finny gave an awesome technique for roasting tomatoes this way (to make sauce), which is fan-freaking-tastic. She followed that by roasting some green beans in the tomato juices, which I know would be great. And, yes, I have made her Best Tomato Sauce Ever and it's as great as she says. I just keep eating it too fast to get a picture to share with you all.
Sun Salutation Update- I've done 4 of these for this weekend's comments.