Cooking Class: Sautéed Vegetables

Sautéed TomatoesSautéing is a hands-on, stovetop cooking method whereby food is cooked rather quickly in a small amount of oil over fairly high heat. (If it sounds a little like stir-frying, that's because the biggest practical difference between the two is the shape of the pan.) When it comes to vegetables, sautéing is a great technique. Unlike steaming, poaching or microwaving vegetables, sautéing allows for some browning. (Remember our lesson on roasting vegetables? That browned exterior adds sweet, delicious flavor.)

Once you master this technique, you can cook almost any vegetable without a recipe. Sautéed veggies make delicious side dishes, but they're also great on sandwiches, stirred into rice and grain dishes and used in casseroles.

  • PRE-PREP. Of course sautéed vegetables need to be washed before cooking, but most importantly, they need to be dried. Like roasting, sautéing is a dry heat cooking method. Wet vegetables will steam and won'tdevelop a nicely browned exterior. Since it can be hard to towel dry a head ofSautéed Cucumbers broccoli, we recommend washing up in advance and allowing your produce to thoroughly air dry before cooking.
  • PREP. Cut up vegetables in small, evenly sized pieces. The pieces shouldn't be much more than ¼ - ½" thick for dense produce (like root vegetables). Vegetables that contain a lot of water can be cut larger.
  • EQUIPMENT. Using a large, shallow pan that can hold all your veggies in a single layer will ensure that the steam can escape. Remember, you want sautéed veggies, not steamed.
  • HEAT. Cook on a moderately high to high heat, to allow for browning/flavor development.
  • INGREDIENTS. They make the difference. Here's what to consider:
    Sautéing MushroomsA) Use just enough oil to lightly coat the pan so that the vegetables won't stick.

    B) The easiest way to ensure individual vegetables in a mixture will each be perfectly cooked is to cook each vegetable separately. Since that's not always practical, you can try two strategies for cooking combos: 1) cut slower-cooking/denser vegetables into smaller pieces than the faster-cooking ones and/or 2) start slower-cooking vegetables first, then add faster-cooking ones later.
    • Very slow-cooking produce: root vegetables (carrots, potatoes) and winter squash
    • Slow-cooking produce: summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers
    • Quick-cooking produce: mushrooms and tomatoes
    • Very quick-cooking produce: greens

    3) Season after cooking. Salt and pepper are a must. Other seasonings, herbs or spices are optional.
  • TECHNIQUE. Stir frequently to help your vegetables cook evenly and to prevent sticking. Straight-bottomed wooden "spoons" are a great tool for this.

Featured Recipe


1-2 tbsp. Kowalski's Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
Good Foods for Good Health logo2 ½-3 cups prepared vegetables
- kosher salt and freshly ground Kowalski's
    Black Peppercorns, to taste

In an extra-large skillet over medium-high heat, heat enough oil to lightly coat pan. Add slower-cooking vegetables to the pan first; add quicker-cooking vegetables later (add additional oil, if needed, to prevent sticking as vegetables are added). Sauté vegetables, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender and beginning to darken on the edges. Remove from heat; season to taste. Serve immediately.

A note on gluten: This recipe is gluten free.

Serves 4.


ALWAYS be aware that when you are using med-high heat and oil or butter there is a risk of flare up! This in itself is not bad if you DO NOT lose control of your pan or it's contents. You should have your exhaust fan on if available when sautéing due to the spray and light smoke created during a controlled flare up. This usually occurs when you toss the veggies in your pan to mix them up. Remember, there's nothing wrong with a little fire if YOU are in control. Happy cookin', Dave H. Retired chef.

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