For tender, crisp vegetables, consider sauteing your mixed vegetables in the distinct but subtle flavor of olive oil. “Saute” means “jump” in French, but whether you toss your vegetables gently in the air or stir them with a spoon, cooking them quickly in a small bath of this flavor-filled oil imbues them with unmistakable flavor.
Wash and cut your mixed vegetables in pieces roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. One-half to an inch vegetable pieces work well in a small saute pan. Presentation matters, so combine vegetables of different colors, such as green beans and yellow summer squash. Create a large mixed vegetable medley with asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, onion and yellow and red pepper. Drop in some peas for a sweet touch.
Turn your stove to medium-high. Pour just enough olive oil in the pan to coat the bottom. Extra virgin olive oil has the richest flavor, but you can use a lighter olive oil if you prefer. Add some minced garlic, if you like, to enhance your vegetable saute's flavor. Heat up the pan so that it's hot before you add the vegetables. This helps ensure a crisp outer layer. It also helps the vegetables cook quickly so that they retain their texture and bright colors. Arrange them in a single layer to ensure even cooking.
Move the vegetables around in the pan continuously for three to four minutes. Stir them often with a wooden spoon, as you would if you were stir-frying them. Or, lift the pan off the stove, swirl the vegetables around and return the pan to the burner. Indulge your inner chef by tossing the vegetables gently, so that they literally "jump" in the pan. Keep the vegetables in a single layer throughout the process. This may take a little practice.
Remove the vegetables from the heat and immediately sprinkle them with kosher salt and a little freshly cracked black pepper. Olive oil soaks up seasonings quickly, so sprinkle on some dried dill or squeeze lemon juice over the vegetables and toss them well. For texture and flavor, top your sauteed vegetables with grilled onion and bacon.
Olive oil does much more than add flavor to vegetables. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like beta carotene.