Caramelization is the process of browning when sugar is heated. This process can also be used in vegetables when the sugars found in fruits and vegetables turn golden brown and form new flavors. This oxidation or browning reaction is used extensively in cooking. It produces such foods as caramel sauce, crème brûlée, and caramelized sweetened milk (dulce de leche). You’ve probably seen it in French onion soup whereby the onions are caramelized before incorporating into the soup.

In the home kitchen, caramelized vegetables are very easy to make. Almost any vegetable can be turned into a great side dish or even a vegetarian meal by itself.  There are two basic methods of cooking the vegetable: roasting (baking) method or the stove-top method.  Both work equally well.  So, you want to make a quick pasta or rice dish? Simple: prepare the vegetables while the pasta or rice is cooking. My favorite vegetables in this process are broccoli, cauliflower or carrots, or combination thereof. Enjoy.

Roasting or Baking Method:

Rinse vegetable under running water, pat dry and cut into bite-sized pieces. Toss them with live oil (1-3 tablespoons depending on how much vegetables you have).  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread them on a sheet or baking pan (I prefer cast-iron) and bake at 425 degrees F. or higher until they become tender and caramelized.
When they come out all nice and tender, squeeze on a little lemon juice (usually juice of ½ lemon) or sesame oil.

Stove-top Method:

Stir-fry cut vegetables in a very hot wok or pan slicked with a little peanut oil (1-2 tablespoons or more). As above, the vegetables will take on the sweetness that comes from caramelization, which can be balanced with a splash of lemon juice or red wine vinegar.