Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Vinaigrette

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My crew, dressed in preparation for Santa’s arrival.

Do you know what Santa brought my kids this year (besides a whole lot of plastic-y happiness that will no doubt be shattered, scattered, and otherwise forgotten by Christmas 2016)?

In order of oldest to youngest, they received, tucked into their stockings, the following spice grinders: tri-colored peppercorns, pink Himalayan sea salt, and cinnamon-sugar. If you had no idea that cinnamon sugar was available in a grinder, then you must have forgotten that Santa can always find a way, especially when his elfin spy (of the on-the-shelf variety) reports to him that the littlest member of this family consumes 3-4 slices of cinnamon toast every morning and sometimes begs for more.

That’s what they are, my three:


The Pepperhead



 The Salty Girl 


The All-sugar-all-the-time Maniac

A complete set.

You know we’re spicy people when spice grinders travel all the way from the North Pole to turn up in Christmas stockings.

Still doubtful? Here’s a recipe I’ve made about half a dozen times in as many weeks, since I discovered it on I’ve tweaked it a little bit since then (of course), not that there was anything wrong with the original, but just because I think that, given the option of a dipping sauce that contains mayonnaise and one that does not, I’ll choose the mayo every time.  To put it a different way, think of this either/or: roasted broccoli spears with vinegar dipping sauce vs. roasted broccoli spears with creamy vinegar dipping sauce.

veggies on plate

It surely is hard to get decent photos of one’s dinner in the dark evenings of January

You’re with me, right?

I’ve been making it with broccoli because that’s what I did the first time, and it was unimpeachable. But tonight, I made both broccoli and brussels sprouts because I was fixing a roast and I reasoned that, when serving a good-sized portion of medium-rare meat, the more green you can pile on the side, the better. This turned out to be doubly true because my roast wasn’t great. It wasn’t awful–it was perfectly medium rare, for heaven’s sake–but it wasn’t tender. I’m blaming the butcher. (Watch this: Stupid butcher, cutting me a tough roast! I hate that guy!)

Meanwhile, the lovely caramelized vegetables, drizzled with tart-creamy dressing and then dragged, on their path mouthward, through some respectable buttermilk mashed potatoes really kept me from grieving for the roast. I honestly didn’t much miss it. (Still hate the butcher, though, if you were wondering.)

Here‘s a link to Deb Perelman’s original post, should you (for some weird reason) not love creamy with your everything.

And here’s what I did:

Roasted Vegetables with Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce

1 lb. broccoli, cut into large florets and with the tough skin peeled away from the remaining stalks

1 lb. brussels sprouts, cored, peeled, and cut in half longitudinally

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

A generous sprinkle “Vegetable Roast Spice Blend.” (Yes, it probably needs a marketing specialist if it’s going to hit the big time.) Recipe follows…

                 Vegetable Roast Spice Blend


In a spare spice jar, combine 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt…and shake it up before using it.

You’ll have extra you can save for next time!

Creamy Balsamic Dipping/Drizzling Sauce

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or whatever sort of vinegar you love)

1/2 teaspoon coarse mustard

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

pinch of salt and pepper

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

2. While the oven is heating, prep your veggies and mix up your spices.

2. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of your pan or pans. Don’t overcrowd your veggies: You want contact between their flat parts and the hot metal. (By the way, if you have cast iron pans, they work great for getting that caramel color.) Arrange them for maximum surface contact. Then sprinkle them generously with the spice mixture.

3. Pop them in the oven and leave them there for 12-20 minutes. The brussels take less time; the broccoli takes more.

4. While they’re roasting, whisk together your sauce.

5. Serve hot, drizzled with the dipping sauce.

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