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"Dirt Candy" Sweet, Slow Roasted Vegetables

Updated on July 27, 2017
Margaret Schindel profile image

Margaret has a passion for cooking, baking, and creating recipes that satisfy her cravings for delicious and indulgent food.

"Dirt Candy" is my name for slow roasted vegetables, preferably root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and beets. In this recipe, "slow roasted" refers to the long roasting time in the oven, not to using a lower temperature. This cooking method results in a much more intense flavor that's also much sweeter without any added sugar or other sweeteners. Heat helps convert the natural starch in any vegetable to sugar, and the longer roasting time caramelizes that sugar on the surface of the veggies and also causes the pieces to shrink to nearly half their original volume, which really concentrates the flavors. The result tastes almost like candied roasted vegetables—which is why I call them dirt candy.

"Dirt Candy" Veggies - Sweet, Slow Roasted Vegetables Recipe by Margaret Schindel
"Dirt Candy" Veggies - Sweet, Slow Roasted Vegetables Recipe by Margaret Schindel | Source

About the Name

I first heard the term "dirt candy" used to refer to vegetables in general when I watched episode 1108 of Chef Ming Tsai's popular public television cooking program Simply Ming. Chef Ming's guest was New York City chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Amanda Cohen, who explained that she named her acclaimed, multi award winning "upstart vegetarian restaurant" that serves "flavor-forward food" Dirt Candy because she thinks of veggies as "candy from the dirt".

Amanda Cohen's "Dirt Candy" Vegetable Cookbook

Try a few of Amanda Cohen's extraordinary vegetable recipes from her hip and chic Dirt Candy restaurant in Manhattan and you'll understand why she calls veggies "candy from the dirt". Her Dirt Candy: A Cookbook is probably unlike any other you've ever seen—part cookbook, part comic book-style graphic novel! There's much more in here than just Cohen's fabulous recipes, and what she shares is funny, educational, and fascinating. You'll learn more about vegetables and how to bring out their awesome deliciousness in revolutionary new ways than you could imagine, and enjoy every minute of it. One of my favorites—and I own a LOT of cookbooks!

My Inspiration for This Recipe

When I first started making my own oven roasted root vegetables I tried out recipes from several of my favorite Food Network chefs including Giada De Laurentiis, "Barefoot Contessa" Ina Garten and Wolfgang Puck, but none of them had that intense flavor and natural sweetness I was looking for. And since nearly every recipe for oven roasted vegetables called for them to be roasted in a single layer in shallow rimmed baking pans, I couldn't make enough for several meals at a time.

After reading everything I could on the subject, I finally came across my first clue in a post on The Wednesday Chef blog about how she changed the way she roasts her veggies to create what she considers "The World's Best Roasted Vegetables Ever". Among the key changes were increasing the amount of olive oil, dumping several layers of mixed veggies in a roasting pan rather than putting them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and extending the cooking time.

The idea of extending the roasting time made perfect sense to me, so although I didn't follow her recipe I did lengthen the cooking time for mine (which is so adaptable that it's more of a technique than a recipe, actually). This made a big improvement - but it still didn't produce the concentration of flavor and more caramelized surface I was looking for. So I kept experimenting with the time and temperature. Every time I increased the oven time I also cut the vegetables into larger chunks to allow for the increased shrinkage, since my husband and I both prefer the finished pieces to be roughly 3/4" chunks.

I discovered that a large pan full of roasted root vegetables needs to cook for at least 1 1/2 hours at 375 °F to 400 °F before it turns into what I consider "dirt candy". And when it I does, it's positively ambrosia.

This is one sweet, delicious treat that's actually healthy and nutritious. Enjoy!

"Dirt Candy" Slow Roasted Vegetables Recipe

"Dirt Candy" slow roasted vegetables
"Dirt Candy" slow roasted vegetables | Source

Cook Time

Prep Time: 15-30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes

Serves: Number of servings depends on quantity of vegetables used and desired serving size

Ingredients

  • Good quality olive oil, preferably cold-pressed extra-virgin
  • Fresh herbs, preferably organic rosemary and/or thyme (dried herbs may be substituted in a pinch)
  • Assorted fresh root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, jicama, preferably organic
  • Onions and unpeeled garlic cloves (optional but highly recommended)
  • Coarse kosher salt

Tools and Equipment

  • A very sharp 8" chef's knife (I gave this one to my brother when he got into cooking and he loves it!)
  • A heavy non-stick 13x9" or 14x10" roasting pan
  • A large cooking spoon or spatula that's safe to use with non-stick cookware

Directions

  1. Place the oven rack 1/3 the way down from the broiler element and preheat the oven to 375 °F to 400 °F.
  2. Pour enough good quality olive oil into a 9x13" or 10x14" roasting pan to coat the bottom generously. If you are using dried rather than fresh herbs, rub them between your fingertips over the pan, stir them into the oil and let them infuse the oil for 15-20 minutes (or longer). You also can use purchased herb-infused olive oil if you don't have fresh herbs.
  3. Wash the root vegetables thoroughly and dry them, but do not peel them. Using a very sharp 8-inch chef's knife, cut more rounded root vegetables like beets, turnips and/or jicama into squarish 1 1/2-inch chunks. For tapered vegetables like carrots and/or parsnips, cut the wide top sections into 1 1/2-inch chunks. As the diameter of the vegetable tapers, cut the rest into longer sections so that all the pieces are similar in volume, despite their different shapes. Toss them into the roasting pan.
  4. If using onions, cut them into squarish 1-1/2" chunks and add to the roasting pan.
  5. If using garlic, break apart the cloves but don't peel them. Add to the pan.
  6. The pan should be filled about 2/3 full of vegetable chunks.
  7. If using fresh rosemary or thyme, distribute small sprigs evenly throughout the pan,
  8. Use both hands to "massage" the veggies so every piece is completely coated with a thin film of olive oil.
  9. Sprinkle a coarse kosher salt liberally over the entire surface and continue the "oil massage" so that the salt is evenly distributed throughout the contents of the pan.
  10. Roast for 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes, stirring well every 20-25 minutes with a non-stick safe spoon or spatula, until the pieces have shrunk to nearly half their original size and the surface of the veggies is nicely caramelized.
  11. Cool slightly in the pan and enjoy them warm, room temperature or cold, by themselves or in recipes or salads.

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Use Your Hands to Coat the Root Vegetables With Oil

When making "dirt candy" roasted root veggies, you'll get the best result if you use your hands to "massage" the oil over the vegetables to make sure that every surface of every chunk is coated with a film of it. If doing this with your hands really bothers you, you can wear thin surgical gloves, but I highly recommend "connecting" with your food directly when you cook.

As a bonus, after you wash your hands they will be moisturized, smooth and soft from spending some time covered with olive oil.

Tip: Save the Flavored Olive Oil!

If there's any olive oil left in the roasting pan after the vegetables have been roasted, pour it into a shallow dish and serve it with thick slices of French, Italian or sourdough bread for dipping. Yum!

© 2014 Margaret Schindel

Do You Think You'll Try This Sweet, Slow Roasted Vegetables Recipe?

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    • Margaret Schindel profile image
      Author

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks, Rebecca! They're not quite as beautiful in appearance as veggies that have been roasted at a higher temperature for a shorter time, but the intensified flavors and the sweetness from caramelizing the vegetables' natural sugars more than makes up for that. I make them all year round, since these vegetables are available any time of year. Enjoy!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I make roasted vegetables every Thanksgiving. This sounds like a yummy dish. Will try! Thanks!

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 2 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      I roast veggies a lot either to just eat or to add to recipes. thanks for sharing, I love the idea of 'dirt candy' - pinned

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 2 years ago from United States

      I really do love mixed vegetable recipes and I am so very glad you submitted this one to the Thanksgiving side dish recipe article on Review This!

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      Since I had the time plus beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes in the fridge, I used this method for our dinner tonight- delicious! I served them with grilled chicken and steamed kale. Everyone cleaned their plates. My son is very picky about his carbs but ate these veggies without complaint. Thanks for a great hub. I think you just changed the way I make vegetables forever.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      I know I've left a note here before, but I just wanted to say I'm glad I can still find this recipe on HubPages, now that Squidoo is no more. Those are seriously good, and dirt candy is an apt name.

      Btw, just wanted to mention that we like to "connect" with our food here too. I tell the grandkids that cooking is when we get to play with our food. They like that.

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 3 years ago from Missouri

      I need to try this. As someone who want to watch my sugar intake, the thought of sweet veggies without adding sugar is enticing. Thank you for the recipe!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Roasted vegetables are a favorite suppertime meal at our house, and these look so wonderfully delectable. I want to grab them right off the screen. I will be trying this recipe one day soon. I know it will be a hit here.

    • profile image

      Ibidii 3 years ago

      Nom Nom, I bet that the Jicama is awesome with the other root vegetables roadted! I enjoy watching Ina Garten, too. Wonderful formula!

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      my family would thoroughly enjoy this! Very creative name as well! Of course this recipe is being saved to my food board

    • Margaret Schindel profile image
      Author

      Margaret Schindel 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      @Diana Wenzel: My complete pleasure, Lady D! They aren't quite as pretty as traditional roasted veggies because of the shrinkage and additional browning, but the taste will make you forget about appearances at first bite, I promise! Thanks for your wonderful feedback!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      Oh, this is my idea of a taste treat delight. I am so happy you shared the secret. Can't wait to try this new slow roasting method. Thank you for yet another awesome food feature. Appreciated!

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 3 years ago from Canada

      Now this looks delicious and I am so going to have to give it a try. I already have most of the ingredients so this should be easy.

    • Corrinna-Johnson profile image

      Corrinna Johnson 3 years ago from BC, Canada

      I love roasted veggies and so do my kids! Yams and brussels sprouts are my fave!