Stir-frying is very similar to sautéing, with two important differences. Stir-frying is done over very high heat, and the food is constantly stirred to prevent it from burning on the hot pan. Stir-frying is often done in a wok, the classic utensil of Chinese cooking. But you can also stir in a sauté pan, as long as the bottom is thick enough to distribute the high heat evenly.
Kitchen Tip: Sautéing and stir-frying are best done with a cooking oil that stands up to high heat, such as canola oil. Once vegetables are done, you can toss them with a flavored oil such as olive or sesame oil.
Boiling or Simmering Vegetables
Like sautéing, boiling vegetables is a quick and easy technique. When you want to retain the flavor and crispness of vegetables such as green beans or broccoli, wait until the water is at a full boil. Toss in the vegetables and cook them quickly, a technique called blanching. Simmering also uses water to cook vegetables, but at a lower temperature, before the water begins to boil. This slow-cooking technique is great for dried bean, potatoes, beets and other root vegetables that require longer periods of cooking in order to become tender.
Kitchen Tip: Adding salt to boiling water enhances the flavor of vegetables. Don’t overdo it. Vegetables shouldn’t taste salty. And of course excess salt increases the risk of high blood pressure.
Roasting vegetables such as asparagus, squash, or onions is as simple as putting them on a baking sheet, drizzling them with a little vegetable oil, and popping them in a 400 degree oven. “The high oven temperature of roasting cooks meat and vegetables quickly and caramelizes the sugars on the surface, creating a crunchy and sweet flavor,” says Scott Samuel, a chef and instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Roasting helps to preserve not only vitamins and minerals, but also flavors that can be lost with boiling.
Kitchen Tip: Build a meal around foods that can all be roasted in the oven, such as roasted chicken or fish and roasted vegetables. Seasonings such as bay leaves, garlic, or mixed spices can be added for flavor.