There is something magical that happens when a fruit or vegetable is cooked whole. The flavors often lost to peeling, chopping, seeding and so on are instead invited to stay at the party and the whole shebang mingles under the heat to glorious ends. With foods you may be eating raw, roasting can sweeten and intensify the flavors; for foods you might normally cook anyway, cooking them whole makes for a rich toothsome texture and a lovely presentation as well. Plus, the absence of prep work makes these all exponentially easy and cooking whole can increase nutrients and reduce food waste by making otherwise discarded parts taste delicious. Consider the following.
What? Yes! Roasted grapes are a revelation. Flavor is intensified and texture is concentrated and they are delicious in both savory and sweet dishes; serve them with cheese or salty things or over Greek yogurt or on top of baked goods. Use them as you would a fruit preserves.
The method couldn't be easier: Heat oven to 425F, spread grapes in a single layer on a pan, add a little olive or almond oil, sprinkle with salt or sugar, toss. Cook for just under 10 minutes, until they start to caramelize a bit and the skin begins to split.
Oh gosh, roasted cherries, these are the best. They are plump and busting with deep mellow cherry flavor; and roasting them with their pit gives them an almond-y edge. Some of the juice releases and makes a syrup of sorts, and the whole thing is just beautiful! Serve them over ice cream, with yogurt, on pancakes, in place of cranberries on Thanksgiving, in wintry cocktails, with cheese, on cheesecake, or, basically, with anything.
Preheat oven to 450F. Use big full cherries, wash them, sprinkle sugar on them, add a pinch of salt and spread them on a baking sheet. Roast for around 10 minutes until they start to release their juices and caramelize, but don't let the sugar burn. Add a healthy splash of brandy (or fruit juice if you prefer) and cook for another 5 minutes. Let cool a bit before serving, or allow to cool completely and refrigerate. (You can remove the pits, or warn any guests that they should. Nobody wants to lose a tooth.)
Chances are you've had baked apples before, they're not exactly innovative, but they are wonderful and often overlooked in place of showier desserts, which is a shame. There are so many ways to bake apples, and there are any number of recipes that involve whole apples and pastry dough or puff pastry, so delicious. But we especially love this tried and true recipe, the result of which is pictured above: Baked Apple Stuffed with Candied Ginger and Almonds.
So, in the cooked whole tomatoes department there are the traditional whole stuffed tomatoes, which are good, but never really sparked the wow factor over here. But quickly roasting whole cherry or vine tomatoes is a bit different. They're like the gateway fruit to sun-dried tomatoes (if one needed coaxing). They retain much of their juices, but they become both sweeter and more savory, and their texture takes well to a bit of heat.
The how-to couldn't be easier. Heat the oven to 400F, place washed whole tomatoes on a pan, drizzle them with olive oil and salt and pepper, roast until they begin to collapse. Voila.
Katherine writes about how to eat a whole pumpkin here. I refer to Stuffed Pumpkin with Quinoa, Butternut and Cranberries here. And Jerry gives a recipe for a whole baked pumpkin fondue ... pumpkin fondue ... here. That's it, pictured above. It has wine and Brie and baguette in it. It's decadent, but there you go.
Roasting a whole cauliflower is a thing of beauty. For those of us who don't partake in food that used to once roam the fields, a whole roasted cauliflower is like an event; it's a big roast that can do a fine stand-in for a platter of roasted meat. The New York Times video above gives a great how-to.
There are many many ways to cook an eggplant. There are even many many ways to roast an eggplant. But the method recommended by the kitchn is not only the simplest, but the tastiest. Basically, rinse an eggplant, dry it and stick it directly on the middle rack (with a baking pan beneath for wayward drips) of an oven preheated to 350F. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, until wrinkled and super tender.
This yields an interior of velvety dense smooth flesh that can be topped with sauce (like above, just cut in half first) or scooped and used for dips, spreads, sauces, soups, etc.
There was a time in the 1980s when roasting a whole bulb of garlic was what all the cool proto-foodies did. Nobody seems to do it anymore, but it's so good. It turns otherwise spicy and intense garlic into a much mellower animal with a sweetly savory depth. And it makes it creamy, perfect for adding to mashed potatoes or simply spreading on baguette; great anywhere you'd put garlic, but don't want that overwhelming garlic power. To roast a whole bulb, remove any loose papery skin, cut just the top off, rub a teaspoon of olive oil all over the bulb, wrap in foil, and bake at 400F for 30 minutes or so, until it feels soft.