How and Why I Marinate my Vegetables
Most people have heard of marinating proteins, such as fish, meat and chicken. We usually marinate to tenderize foods, and add flavor. I’m not so concerned with tendering vegetables, but flavor enhancement? Now that is something I can get on board with.
Flavor enhancement works in two ways. Most importantly, it adds specific tastes to the food, but it then takes on new dimension once the marinade is cooked. For example, any marinade with a sugar component will caramelize, and offer a certain depth when cooked. Acids, such as vinegar can lend an umami richness to the dish. The list goes on.
Would this work for veggies? I tried my hand with acorn squash and onions. On the onions, I used a vinegar-based marinade, and the squash used a spiced-based marinade.
Garlic powder Cinnamon
|Onions: (I used red onions but shallots would work too, I think yellow or white onions would offer too strong a flavor to compete with this marinade)
Ground black pepper
Cut the acorn squash into crescents, and place into a zip-top bag with the marinade ingredients. No measurements, just eyeballed by taste.
Onions were peeled and cut in half, then placed in a zip-top bag with the marinade ingredients. Equal parts of oil and vinegar were used.
First, I can tell you this was a huge time saver – I’m talking about a game-changer. I marinated these late Thursday, when I didn’t want to stay up to roast them. The next day, I whipped them out and cooked them. No mess, no fuss, and fresh-roasted veggies. A win all around!
Secondly, the onions were a home run. Overnight, the acid in the vinegar softened the onions a little, took out some of the pungent flavor, and seeped inbetween the layers to coat every part with its goodness. After roasting at a high-heat (450˚), thevinegar caramelized, which only heightened the sweetness of the roasted onions. This is going heavily into my cooking rotation, and to top it off, they looked so pretty.
Thirdly, I didn’t notice anything majorly game-changing in marination of the squash, other than ease. The same flavors probably could have been accomplished had I just tossed everything together in a huge mixing bowl. But still, sometimes ease wins out.
And finally, when roasting veggies, remember to use a super-high temperature. Keep an eye on them, and most importantly, SPREAD THEM OUT. They need room to breathe and air to circulate in order to achieve that crispy exterior everyone loves.