We try to eat vegetarian at least a few times a week. The reason for this, for me at least, is simple: variety. It’s the same reason I try to plan a well-distributed mix of animal proteins, or a mix of different types of cuisines; I don’t want to eat the same thing all week long. I know there are a lot of justifications for having a largely plant based diet—heart health; cancer prevention; higher fiber; lower fat, calories and carbs (though I call BS on the latter)—but for me it’s just another way to inject variety into our nightly meals.
For most vegetarian nights my go-to dishes are some sort of frittata, pasta or salad. Honestly, though, the first two are really just vegetarian by default; yes, they lack meats but they’re not usually very vegetable-heavy. I mean, I love a caramelized shallot frittata or a quick and easy macaroni and cheese (no, seriously, I love them) and, sure, they’re vegetarian but only barely. Salads get a little ho-hum for me and frankly I feel like even if I’m not actually cooking anything for the salad, by the time I get done with all the chopping and other prep work it takes even longer than cooking up some fabulous hot meal. I get salad weary.
One thing I don’t get weary about, though, is a tray of roasted vegetables. That sounds really pluggy, like some vegetable coalition commission board is paying me to say it (and believe me, nobody’s paying me). But here’s the thing: not only are roasted vegetables really good, but any meal that I can dump a bunch of stuff in a roasting tray, throw it in the oven, and not have to do much else makes it all the better. This one in particular is kind of a Greek flavored one. It’s actually similar to a Greek dish of roasted vegetables called Briami. Usually a little water is added to it so it’s more of a stewed vegetable dish than anything, kind of like a Grecian ratatouille, and typically sprinkled with a some sort of grated hard Greek cheese. To make a meal out of it I add some canned garbanzo beans and whip up a quick sauce with Greek yogurt, garlic and oregano to spoon over the top. Rather than a very authentic Greek cheese, like the usual Myzithra you might see on Briami, I use feta and unapologetically at that; though it may be a little “common” or “typical” it’s more available and tastes great. The combination of the sweet, caramelized and soft vegetables with the almost meaty garbanzos, studded with salty-sharp cheese and doused in slightly tart, herbaceous, creamy sauce—it’s the perfect balance of flavors and won’t leave you missing meat at all! (And this is not coming from a vegetarian!)
First, simply enough, whisk together a little minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, fresh oregano, red wine vinegar and Greek yogurt until its combined. If you can make this in advance then all the better—the longer this, or any yogurt based sauce, sits the better it tastes I think. A few hours in advance would be fine, the morning before is ideal but the night before works fine. You get the idea.
Start the rest by tossing a bunch of vegetables, some dried oregano, thyme and Hungarian paprika all with enough olive oil (regular, not extra virgin) to coat it lightly. Don’t add any salt yet. The salt will make them taste better, pulling out their flavor and intensifying them, but adding it too soon will pull their natural water out and they’ll steam or braise more than roast and you want these rich and roasted.
I use white or yellow potatoes (something on the waxier side so they keep their shape), sweet potatoes, bell peppers (I normally favor red, yellow and/or orange to green ones but I had one in the fridge that was intended for some Mojo Pork I never got around to making), red onions and whole garlic—unpeeled so they get soft and sweet. Use this as a blueprint, though; you could used zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes or beets if you wanted, though (if you’re going to do beets you may want to either get golden ones or roast the red ones in a separate dish so they don’t dye everything else pink) and I think some halloumi would be good in place of feta, though you’d have to scatter it on halfway through cooking the veg. Chuck the whole thing in a hot oven for about 40 minutes, tossing half way through.
Oh! And make sure you cut the sweet potatoes much larger than the potatoes so they cook in the same amount of time.
After 40 minutes is up, toss in some garbanzo beans that you’ve drained, rinsed and patted a little dry. Sprinkle on a little salt and toss the whole thing so it’s all combined. Back into the oven it goes just for 5 – 10 minutes—until the beans are just heated through.
Pull it out of the oven, scatter the whole tray with chopped parsley and crumble over some good, salty feta. Just serve the whole thing right out of the tray with the sauce alongside.