As late-summer produce gives way to fall squashes, root vegetables and autumn fruit, here’s a way to celebrate this in-between season. Roasting brings out the natural sugars in both fruit and vegetables for a deep, and often rich, caramelized flavor. Gather a combination of your favorites, but consider a variety of both color and texture. Think crispy onion or leek with tender potato, and tart-sweet pear and apple. Roasting grapes, especially in-season Concords, makes for an incredibly deep and surprising burst of flavor — and pairs well with cheese — to the overall dish. Bring it all together with some toasted nuts, flake salt, and the complex, tart flavor of pomegranate molasses. If you can’t find pomegranate molasses — often found in the international food section of the store — reduce balsamic vinegar until thick and syrupy. Any leftovers add brightness to salads, sandwiches, and omelets.
Roasted fall vegetables and grapes
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 medium sweet potatoes or yams or winter squash (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Fine salt and freshly-ground black pepper
8 ounces grapes, such as Concord
1/2 cup toasted Marcona almonds, walnuts, or pecans
Pomegranate molasses or thick balsamic vinegar (see note)
Optional garnishes: flake salt; pomegranate arils; Parmesan or feta cheese
For the balsamic vinegar reduction: The time it takes to reduce depends on the quality of vinegar you choose, so look for high-quality vinegars from Modena. Imitation or lower-grade versions will be watered down and will take longer to reduce. Pour 1 1/2 to 2 cups high-quality balsamic vinegar in a small pot or saucepan set over medium-low heat. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, and reduce to about 1/2 cup, about 20 minutes. It should be glossy and thick and coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat immediately and allow to cool 10-15 minutes before using. Pour any extra into a clean glass jar and store in fridge up to one month. This reduction dresses up salads, roasted vegetables, roasted chicken and fish and even fried eggs.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or aluminum foil.
Trim Brussels sprouts and cut in half, as needed, depending on size; try to keep shapes similar in size for even cooking. Trim and cut sweet potatoes into similar-sized wedges. Toss sprouts in a bowl with two tablespoons of olive oil, about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly-ground black pepper. Spread sprouts evenly on one of the prepared baking sheets. Add sweet potato wedges to the bowl used for the sprouts. Drizzle with remaining two tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread sweet potatoes onto second baking sheet. Roast 15 minutes. Toss grapes in the same bowl used for vegetables and toss gently with residual oil and salt and pepper left in the bowl. After 15 minutes, add grapes to one side of one of the pans; shake pans or stir vegetables for even roasting. Roast another 10 to 15 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are crisp and browned on outside and tender inside. Sweet potatoes will be golden brown and tender inside when tested with a knife tip or fork. Keep in mind, fruit and veg will be ready at different times, so remove as each kind is finished roasting.
While vegetables are roasting, toast nuts and prep garnishes, including balsamic vinegar reduction if not using pomegranate molasses. Serve vegetables and fruit warm or at room temperature, topped with toasted nuts and pomegranate molasses or balsamic vinegar reduction. Garnish, if desired, with flake salt, pomegranate arils and Parmesan shavings or crumbled Feta cheese.