Foolproof plan for pan browning, crisping veggies


No surprise, like everyone else, I’ve been sequestered at home for what seems like months. For me, that turned out to be time to experiment in my kitchen.

For years my partner, Nan, prepared green beans by adding some oil (she likes olive oil) to a non-stick (not Teflon) skillet, adding the green beans once the oil is hot, covering the skillet and letting the beans brown slightly on one side while the water that the green beans throws-off turns to steam and cooks them quickly.



Sometimes, in the same skillet, Nan sautés some sliced almonds first until they are lightly golden and then adds the beans, essentially a clever, one-pan version of green beans almondine.

The moisture that the beans threw-off caused the beans to shrink a little, concentrating and boosting the bean’s flavor. Since there’s no added water, the water-soluble vitamins may stay with the beans. Nan’s green beans exit the skillet, a beautiful green and caramelized on one side. Tough to beat.

Once I’d seen how Nan made her beans, I began experimenting with other vegetables. I’ve done the no-added-water, some-oil-skillet method to cook asparagus, tossing the asparagus tips into the pan one to two minutes near the end, so they don’t overcook. Just as good as oven-roasting asparagus without heating up the kitchen.

The finished, browned and slightly caramelized cauliflower.

The finished, browned and slightly caramelized cauliflower.
– Courtesy of Don Mauer



Nan’s daughter made an excellent from-scratch tomato and meatballs spaghetti sauce for dinner. Since all wheat-based foods, including pasta, have been off my menu since last August, I wanted to serve her sauce over something low-carb and Don-friendly; cauliflower seemed like a good choice.

I don’t like boiled or steamed cauliflower since the cauliflower seems to absorb the water in which its been cooked and then throws-it-off after serving, like making a cheese sauce into cheese soup.

It seemed that Nan’s skillet-fry method was the right candidate as my pasta substitute. I added olive oil to my well-seasoned iron skillet and set it aside. Next, I cut the cauliflower’s stem-end off and trimmed-off all the cauliflower’s green leaves. We composted those.

Then, I cut the stem off as near the florets as possible, cut it in half, and used the cut sides to smear the olive oil evenly on the skillet’s bottom and left those to cook with the florets.



Next, I trimmed-off each of the cauliflower’s florets and cut them in half; placed them cut-side down in the skillet, fitting them together like a jigsaw puzzle.

I placed the skillet over medium-high heat, and when I could hear it sizzle, I covered the skillet and lowered the heat to medium and let the cauliflower fry for about seven minutes.

At that point, I uncovered the skillet and turned one of the cauliflower pieces over, and they were nicely browned. I pierced a floret end with a sharp knife, and when they didn’t pierce easily, I let them cook, covered, for another three minutes.

At dinner, I ladled the sauce and meatballs over my cauliflower, dusted it with parmesan cheese, and dug in. Wow. Was it as good as pasta? No, but nearly as good. Later I did the math and found I saved myself almost 175 calories and nearly 35 carbohydrate grams compared to pasta. That’s a double winner.

A piece of cauliflower stands ready and trimmed for crisping in a hot pan.

A piece of cauliflower stands ready and trimmed for crisping in a hot pan.
– Courtesy of Don Mauer

EZPZ Fried and Steamed Cauliflower

1 medium-size head (about 1½ pounds) cauliflower

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or other non-vegetable oil, such as avocado or coconut)

½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

Sweet Paprika (could use smoked paprika)

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Add the olive oil to a 12-inch, well-seasoned iron skillet (do not use Teflon).

Trim the cauliflower’s stem end and remove all the leaves. Rinse cauliflower head well under cold water and trim off any brown spots. Remove the stem just below the florets, cut the stem in half and use the cut sides to spread the oil all over the skillet’s bottom.

Cut the florets off the stalk, slice in half and place the flat, cut sides down in the skillet, fitting them all together. Season with salt, paprika, and pepper.

Place the skillet over medium-high heat and when the cauliflower starts to sizzle, cover the skillet, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, uncover and turn one piece over to see how browned it is. Using a thin, sharp knife pierce the stem ends of a few pieces and if they pierce easily, they’re done. If not, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes more and test again.

Serve immediately as a side vegetable.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition values per serving: 48 calories(48 percent from fat), 2.6 g fat(0.4 g saturated fat), 5.6 g carbohydrates (3.3 net carbs), 2.2 g sugars, 2.3 g fiber, 2.2 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 228 mg sodium.

Don Mauer



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