Sauté the Flavors of Spring

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Spring has sprung and so have its flavors! Maximize the flavors and colors by simply sautéing. This word is derived from the French word to jump. Traditionally, this method cooks foods in a thin layer of fat over medium-high heat. It is great for small, consistent sizes of vegetables and meat and comes together relatively fast, simple enough for a quick weeknight dinner! The key to sautéing is getting the pan hot before adding the fat. Make sure it is not too high of heat to where the oil will get to the smoking point. Once hot, heat the oil and then the food, be sure to not overcrowd the pan. The continuous movement of the foods by stirring or flipping is where the jumping part comes into play and ensures even cooking.

The USDA’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines promote the Mediterranean-style eating pattern due to a large amount of research supporting its health benefits, specifically for decreasing the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Healthy fats are one of the key components that make eating a Mediterranean-style diet both satisfying and delicious. Whether it’s using olive oil in place of butter or making salad dressing from scratch, simple substitutions can help individuals to consume the recommended four tablespoons of olive oil per day. However, like most foods, consuming more than the recommended amount does not always result in increased health benefits, moderation is still key.

A healthy fat source would be high in either polyunsaturated fatty acids or monounsaturated fatty acids and low in saturated and trans fats. Polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega-3’s, may lower the bad cholesterol in your blood. Canola oil has a high amount of this heart-healthy fat, making it a great option for cooking or baking. Monounsaturated fats also improve cholesterol in your blood and decrease the risk of heart disease. Olive oil is the most commonly used oil that is high in monounsaturated fats. The concern for heating oil at a high temperature is that it can introduce cancerous components. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil provide a more heat-stable oil and combined with its smoke point of around 392F, make it a great option for cooking. There is a difference between heating oil and allowing it to get to its smoking point. With any oil, it is important to not overheat it. Research suggests that replacing saturated fats with both forms of unsaturated fats can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Making Med-Flips include cooking with healthy oils instead of solid fat, drizzling and dressing dishes/salads with healthy oils, and replacing solid fats with healthy oils in recipes.

It is essential to store oil in a cool and dark place, away from any heat source, to extend shelf life. Exposure to heat, light, and air over time results in a loss of nutrients and decreases the oil’s quality. For best quality, use the olive oil 30-60 days after opening it. If you find that you are regularly replacing oil because of rancid smells or decreased quality, try buying smaller bottles that you can use within this time frame.

More information on eating the Med Way

The USDA provides an easy recipe for a Spring Vegetable Sauté:

Makes 4 servings.


1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup sweet onion (sliced)
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
3 small potatoes (tiny, quartered)
3/4 cup carrot (sliced)
3/4 cup asparagus pieces
3/4 cup sugar snap peas, or green beans
1/2 cup radishes (quartered)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dill (dried)


  1. Wash and pat dry the fresh produce.

  2. Heat the oil in a hot skillet. Cook the onion for 2 minutes, add the garlic and cook for another minute

  3. Stir in the potatoes and carrots. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook until almost tender, about 4 minutes.

  4. If the vegetables start to brown, add a Tablespoon or 2 of water.

  5. Now add the asparagus, peas, radishes, salt, pepper, and dill. Cook, stirring often, until just tender – about 4 minutes more.

  6. Serve immediately.

N.C. Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on nutrition, health, food preservation, and food safety in Lee County please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Ashley Szilvay at 919-775-5624.

Written By

Ashley Szilvay, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionAshley SzilvayExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences Call Ashley Email Ashley N.C. Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center
Posted on Apr 14, 2023
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