Lately, I have not been able to get enough roasted vegetables. In the cold late-winter months, a big plate of roasted vegetables might be just what you need.

Roasting is the cooking of food using dry heat rather than steaming, braising or stewing. Although meats and vegetables can be roasted on a spit over an open fire, or on a grill, today’s roasting is most often done uncovered in an oven.

Roasting a vegetable is easy and can be varied in many ways. The simplicity of just salt and pepper allows the vegetable itself to shine through, but different spices, sauces and other additions can turn your roasted vegetable into the star of the meal.

Roasting brings out the natural sweetness, especially in root vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Allowing the vegetables (or meats) to properly brown will give much more flavor to the finished dish. When checking for doneness, do not assume browning means burning; in this case, blackening would mean burning. Do not be discouraged by browning, as color equals flavor in the culinary world.

Both fresh or frozen vegetables can be roasted, although fresh veggies will end with a more desirable texture.

When roasting cauliflower, I like to buy the head fresh versus frozen to prevent sogginess. However I am not opposed to a bag of frozen broccoli florets. There is no need to thaw the broccoli first: Simply toss the florets with a little olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place florets on a baking sheet and roast. A high temperature will allow a lot of the moisture to cook out, then the florets will begin to brown.

Lemon Garlic Asparagus
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, pressed or peeled and finely grated
1 lemon, zested

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

To remove the tough, woody base of the asparagus, hold a stalk by each end and bend it until it snaps — the point where it snaps denotes the line between edible and inedible. Cut all the remaining stalks at the length of the snapped stalk. Next, use a vegetable peeler to lightly peel the very outside of the asparagus to prevent stringiness.

Place the trimmed asparagus in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss with garlic and lemon zest. Place in the oven and roast until the tips have started to brown and the asparagus is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Roasted Carrots with Sriracha Honey Glaze
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 pound carrots, cut into ˝-inch thick coins, or baby carrots
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Sriracha chile sauce, more or less to taste
3 tablespoons honey
˝ cup chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner, aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Drizzle carrots with olive oil and toss with generous pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in the oven and roast until fork tender, but not mushy. Cooking times will vary depending on size of carrots.

Meanwhile combine butter, Sriracha, honey and stock in a small saucepot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat and continue to simmer until the glaze has thickened to the consistency of loose maple syrup.

When the carrots have roasted, immediately toss with the glaze. Season to taste with kosher salt and more Sriracha as needed. Serve immediately.

Roasted Cauliflower and Smoked Gouda Gratin

Ingredients:
3 heads cauliflower, broken into florets
Olive oil
4 strips bacon, diced
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Béchamel Sauce (recipe follows)
1˝ cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet a silicone liner or aluminum foil.
Spread the cauliflower onto the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in the oven and roast until tender and golden brown, turning once about halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, spread the bacon in the bottom of a sauté pan and place over medium heat. Cook undisturbed until the bacon is browned on the bottom, about 10-15 minutes, before stirring. When cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove from the pan and in a small bowl, combine the bacon with the panko bread crumbs. Set aside.
When the cauliflower is slightly tender and golden brown, transfer to a mixing bowl; add béchamel sauce and half of the Gouda cheese. Place in a baking dish, and top with remaining cheese and bacon/panko mixture. Place in the oven and bake until golden and bubbly, about 10-15 minutes.

Bechamel Sauce

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. When the butter melts and begins to foam add the flour. Whisk until the flour loses its raw smell, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the milk ˝ cup at a time, stirring constantly allowing the milk to thicken before adding more.

Allow the mixture to simmer until thickened.

Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Season Stepp is a correspondent for The Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal.