How to roast summer’s bounty of vegetables ahead for meals later

Roasted cauliflower becomes the star for a twist on nachos. It's still decadent with plenty of melted cheese, but also somewhat healthier than standard nachos. Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune/TNS

Sure, it sounds crazy to heat up a hot summer kitchen to roast our farmers market vegetables. Bear with me. A fridge brimming with containers of roasted cauliflower, eggplant, onions, peppers, mushrooms and squash practically guarantees phenomenal salads, omelets, grain bowls, sandwiches and pasta dishes. To say nothing of savory snacks at the ready.

So, we gather, prep and roast early in the morning in preparation for the meals ahead. When cooler heads prevail, those roasted goodies turn into lunchtime thrillers and dinner inspirations.

Roasted eggplant always inspires — especially when paired with za’atar, a Middle Eastern seasoning blend made from sesame seeds, sumac, oregano, thyme and other herbs. Sprinkle it on generously with a bit of olive oil before roasting. The whole kitchen will smell wonderful.

Mostly, I serve roasted eggplant and other vegetables warm or at room temperature seasoned simply with a shower of fresh herbs. This summer, a quick, nondairy, yet creamy dressing, made from tahini (sesame seed paste), fresh lemon juice and garlic, changes things up a bit.

For a meatless main course, I stir the tahini dressing into roasted eggplant along with garlicky whole wheat couscous. Alternatively, I’ll serve the dressing over grilled or broiled fish fillets or chicken cutlets with the roasted vegetables on the side.


An offhand remark about fun ballpark food led to this summer’s indulgence: Roasted veggie nachos. No neon cheese here — rather neon-colored orange cauliflower bronzed with red chile. Other farmers market purchases, such as jalapenos and corn, get roasted alongside the florets then piled over thick tortilla chips before a shower of shredded cheese. Adding tender black beans for protein helps us rationalize nachos as dinner. Especially when served on the patio with a leafy green salad and icy margaritas.

Feel free to skip the tortilla chips and finish the roasted cauliflower simply with a shower of cheese and fresh cilantro.

All of these recipes, like so much of our summer cooking, are better when chunks of ripe, red tomato are added. And cold beer with a splash of fresh limeade to cool off the cook.


Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes: 6 servings

Bottled creamy garlic, Greek yogurt dressing or creamy feta dressing can be substituted for the homemade tahini dressing. Look for dried barberries online and in Middle Eastern markets; dried cranberries make a nice substitute, but chop them if they’re large.

  • 1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound
  • 2 small zucchini or yellow squash OR 1 of each
  • 1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, halved, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons za’atar seasoning, see note
  • Garlic and herb couscous, see recipe
  • Tahini dressing with lemon and garlic, see recipe
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, or a combination
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons dried barberries, chopped dried cranberries or currants, optional

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees on conventional setting or 375 degrees on convection. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet.
2. Trim ends from eggplant; slice it crosswise into 3/4-inch thick rounds. Cut the rounds into 3/4-inch pieces. Place on an oiled baking sheet. Trim zucchini ends; slice each crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Add to eggplant along with onion. Toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoning; toss to mix well.


3. Bake, turning vegetables once or twice, until eggplant is tender and onion is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Transfer cooked vegetables to a large serving bowl. Add garlic and herb couscous and several tablespoons of the tahini dressing. (We used all of it.) Toss gently to mix. Serve garnished with chopped herbs and barberries.

Note: Za’atar is a Middle Eastern seasoning blend; look for it at large supermarkets, Middle Eastern markets or order online from or

Nutrition information per serving: 153 calories, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 3 g protein, 243 mg sodium, 3 g fiber


Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 35 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

You’ll need about 8 cups (1 pound) cauliflower florets and 8 cups (9 ounces) thick, restaurant-style corn tortilla chips to make hearty nachos for four. One or 2 cups of crumbled cooked and drained chorizo sausage would be great added along with the cheese. If using canned beans, drain and rinse them first.


  • 1 medium head cauliflower, orange or white, cored
  • 2 medium jalapenos, stemmed, thinly sliced
  • 1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons safflower, sunflower or expeller-pressed canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon Tajin chile-lime seasoning (OR 2 teaspoons chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 bag (9 ounces) thick restaurant-style tortilla chips, about 8 cups
  • 3/4 cup cooked or canned black beans
  • 1 large tomato, halved, seeded, diced
  • 2 cups shredded Chihuahua or Monterey jack cheese or Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Fresh lime wedges
  • Red or green hot sauce

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Separate cauliflower into bite-size florets. Divide between 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Add jalapenos and onion. Sprinkle with oil and stir well. Sprinkle with Tajin or chili powder and salt.
2. Bake, stirring once or twice, 20 minutes. Stir in corn. Bake until cauliflower is tender and golden at the edges, about 10 minutes more.

3. Scoop the cooked vegetables onto a plate. Scatter the tortilla chips over the baking sheets. Sprinkle the cooked vegetables over the chips. Over everything, evenly sprinkle the black beans and tomato, and then the cheese.

4. Bake until chips are hot and golden at the edges and cheese melted, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with avocado and cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges, hot sauce and plenty of napkins.

Nutrition information per serving: 832 calories, 54 g fat, 15 g saturated fat, 59 mg cholesterol, 70 g carbohydrates, 8 g sugar, 23 g protein, 1,023 mg sodium, 14 g fiber


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