Friday, January 6, 2012

Sauteed Vegetables

The last big technique I use for making vegetables is sauteing. The technique is quite simple - heat an oil in a skillet and "fry" the food. The trick is to use high heat and add the vegetables to hot oil. I don't use much oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. That is, unless I am using butter or Nucoa, then I add a bit more.
I use cast iron pans and the trick to making them non-stick is to coat the bottom and sides in oil, heat the skillet up and then add the food. I often wait until I get a slight smoke from the oil, not a burn but something to tell me it's hot. If you add too much oil, it will spatter and can cause burns so it's best to use as little as possible but still coat the bottom. With butter/Nucoa I use about 2 TB. Butter doesn't spatter like oil because it has a water content. That doesn't mean you won't get spatter but it's less likely.
Add the vegetables to the oil. If you stir constantly, you will get tender vegetables. If you layer them in the bottom of the pan and let them sit for 30 seconds or so, you will get golden fried vegetables. This will depend on your taste and the vegetable.
Sauteing does add fat but it's not a bad thing. Many vegetables need the fat to increase absorption of vitamins. And if you keep the oil to a minimum and use healthy oils such as canola oil then you're not harming your diet. Butter adds flavor and might make the vegetable more appealing so don't discount it. Using a bit to saute the vegetable actually adds more flavor than dumping some on after it has been cooked.
High starch vegetables such as potatoes absorb the oil and require more to prevent sticking to the pan. This can be offset by adding water to prevent sticking but it prevents a good golden crust. One trick is to pre-cook the vegetable in water or the microwave to reduce cooking time and then use sauteing to just create the crust.
Stir frying vegetables is the same as sauteing. The big different is that stir fries are exclusively done with oil and often with peanut or sesame oil as a flavoring.
Seasonings can be added to the end of the sauteing and can vary as much as you like. My favorites are - soy sauce, dill weed, garam marsala, kosher salt, Old Bay Seasoning. I'm sure there are others we throw in but at this time that's what we use.
Vegetables we saute/stir fry - onions, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potatoes, snow peas, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, cucumbers (yes, cucumbers), carrots, cauliflower, broccoli. I know there are more but that's what I can think of. Sauteing and Stir Frying are often more popular because of ease of cooking and the ability to throw in other foods such as rice and meat. We make the occassional dish using bacon and it's leftover grease (I drain off excess).
Next week, I'll share some recipes that use these techniques to create interesting and tasty vegetable dishes.

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