Citrus Is The Secret Ingredient That Upgrades Your Roasted Vegetables

roasted cauliflower with lemon wedges
roasted cauliflower with lemon wedges - Robyn Mackenzie/Shutterstock

Roasting vegetables is one of the easiest and most versatile ways to prepare veggies for a meal. All of the prep work goes into roughly chopping them and tossing them with some salt, pepper, and olive oil before sticking them in the oven. Such is a minimalistic roasted vegetable recipe -- perfect to eat alongside grains and proteins. Yet, one ingredient can make roasted vegetables the star of the plate: citrus.

A dull, one-dimensional flavor in roasted vegetables can easily be interpreted as a lack of salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer, but there's no need to up the sodium any further when you can simply turn to citrus. Adding a dash of acidity is one of many roasted veggie tips you'll wish you knew sooner. There are different types and forms of citrus that you can add to roasted veggies: Lemon is classic, loved for its straightforward sourness and compatibility with other foods, limes are equally brightening, and sweeter options like oranges are fun to experiment with. Citrus juice is most useful for its acidity, but zest should also be taken advantage of for its aromatic qualities and natural oils.

Read more: Mistakes You're Making With Your Corn On The Cob

Vegetable And Citrus Pairings

squeezing lemon on Brussels sprouts
squeezing lemon on Brussels sprouts - uniqueton/Shutterstock

Citrus unlocks the brightness of roasted vegetables that was sucked away in the oven. It introduces sourness to balance out the flavor profile -- something every dish should strive for. Best of all, a squeeze of citrus juice is so easy to add to vegetables that there can't possibly be an excuse for skipping this step. Seasoning vegetables after they are cooked rather than before is ideal for preserving flavor and ensures that the acidity, antioxidant, and sugar levels of the fruit do not decrease due to the heat of the oven.

When it comes to a dash of citrus, lemon is a go-to. This works out well since, chances are, you have a lemon sitting on your kitchen counter already. Lemon works well with every vegetable in the book and does its job of enhancing veggies effortlessly. Lime is another great option: A lime's bright tartness and unique smell can complement a medley of peppers, carrots, onions, and roasted corn and can be further upgraded with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves.

Less typical than lemons and limes but equally as functional are oranges. Oranges are not only acidic but also sweet and fruity. Pair oranges with root vegetables like sweet potato and carrots to play off of their natural sweetness. Alternatively, use oranges with cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts to provide a sweet contrast to more earthy veggies.

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