How to roast summer’s bounty of vegetables ahead for meals later – including indulgent cauliflower nachos


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.


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Roasted eggplant, zucchini and onions are the base of this dish. A whole wheat couscous and a luscious, lemony tahini dressing are added. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Roasted Eggplant With Tahini Dressing and Whole-Wheat Couscous

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, optionalHeat oven to 400 degrees on conventional setting or 375 degrees on convection. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet.

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.

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

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 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, no cholesterol, 9 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 3 grams protein, 243 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.


Tahini Dressing With Lemon and Garlic

Prep: 5 minutes

Makes: about 1/2 cup

This dressing makes a terrific sauce for broiled or grilled fish fillets.

1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 small cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon each: smoked paprika, salt

Mix all the ingredients with 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl until smooth. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons water as needed to make a semi-thick dressing. Taste and adjust salt.

Nutrition information per tablespoon: 47 calories, 4 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, no cholesterol, 2 grams carbohydrates, no sugar, 1 gram protein, 148 milligrams sodium, no fiber.


Garlic and Herb Couscous

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 5 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

Stir roasted vegetables into this for a delicious meatless main course. Shreds of roast chicken or diced tofu also are welcome.

1 cup vegetable broth, chicken broth or water

2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon each: salt, sweet or smoked paprika

1 cup whole-wheat couscous or organic couscous

2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as a combination of cilantro, chives, parsley, mint

Heat broth, butter, garlic, salt and paprika to boil in a small saucepan. Stir in couscous, remove from heat and cover pan. Let stand 5 minutes off the heat. Fluff with a fork, and stir in herbs.

Nutrition information per serving: 229 calories, 7 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, no cholesterol, 35 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 6 grams protein, 330 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.


Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Corn Nachos

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

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.

Bake, stirring once or twice, 20 minutes. Stir in corn. Bake until cauliflower is tender and golden at the edges, about 10 minutes more.

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.

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 grams fat, 15 grams saturated fat, 59 milligrams cholesterol, 70 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams sugar, 23 grams protein, 1,023 milligrams sodium, 14 grams fiber.

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Ember-roasted mashed sweet potatoes with coconut and lemongrass will break you out of your veggie funk in no time. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)



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