"Caramelize onions without using any oil? No way!" That's a pretty typical first reaction to those who are starting to eat an oil-free, plant-based diet. Not only can it be done, but renowned Chef Del Sroufe will show you how in his step-by-step video from Wellness Forum Foods. Chef Del has perfected the technique of caramelizing vegetables in order to enhance the flavor of plant-based cooking. He says, "When you start seeing the browning of the vegetables in the pan, that's flavor and you want that in your food."
In the below video, we can step into Chef Del's kitchen and watch as he begins the caramelization process of the onions. He then adds green peppers, carrots, broccoli, and garlic to make a colorful stir-fry that could be seasoned and served over rice, folded into a quiche, or poured into a soup. Chef Del explains which vegetables are best suited for caramelizing and which have a tendency to burn, plus he shows us how and when to add in each type of vegetable to maximize the flavor and manage the moisture in the pan.
Chef Del offers the following tips for making a satisfying and flavorful vegetable sauté.
1. Start with a hot, dry pan. Chef Del says that he prefers to use a cast iron skillet because it holds the heat well, but that any pan should work.
2. Only add water a tablespoon or two at a time, just enough to reglaze the pan. The goal is to keep the vegetables from sticking or burning. Too much water in the pan causes the vegetables to steam rather than caramelize. Too much water can also dilute the flavor, defeating the purpose of caramelizing.
3. Onions are a great first vegetable to add to the sauté. They have a high water content which can help prepare the pan for vegetables like broccoli which have less water.
4. Garlic and herbs burn easily. Garlic is best added toward the end of the sautéing process because of its low water content. Herbs likewise burn easily, although they can be toasted in a dry pan to enhance their flavor.
Chef Del cooks in Central Ohio where he is the co-owner and Executive Chef at Wellness Forum Health. He is the author of three cookbooks, Forks of Knives: The Cookbook, Chef Del's Better Than Vegan and The China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook.
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Photo Credit - Oil Free Sauté Image from Del Sroufe
Video Credit - Wellness Forum Foods - How to Saute Veggies Without Oil