January 9, 2013

Simple Stir Fry: The Technique

Random veggie bits and pieces for stir fry.
 One of my resolutions was to waste less. Nine days in, I'm feeling pretty great about this goal. The last two weekends I've picked up most of our veggies from the farmer's market; the others hail from our dwindling backyard garden.

Having these beautiful, organic, locally grown vegetables on hand makes me feel like they're more special than average grocery store produce which encourages me to avoid wasting any bite. Since I know they're organic, too (and enjoy reading Johnson's Backyard Garden blog about this local produce), I tend to use more of the plant. Funny how that works, isn't it? Regard something as precious and you treat it better and use it more wisely. To me, this means, "Don't waste it!"

Kind of by accident, I happened upon a new tactic in the kitchen this week: I turned my stir fry into tacos. Which meant that with one basic prep night, I made two completely different meals (and enough for lunch leftovers, too). Beginning on Sunday night, I chopped a slew of seasonal veggies for a simple stir fry. Shredded cabbage, carrots, green onion, broccoli, and leftover minced purple cauliflower made it into the stir fry. At its best, stir fry is out-of-this-world unbelievable; I'll save that for the chefs. Because everyday stir fry can be so very simple to whip up on a weeknight; I learned my basics from Mark Bittman, and have found that this is more of an approach than a recipe.

Simple Stir Fry Technique 

4 to 5 cups vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choi, snap peas, carrots, and celery work well)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
2 to 3 cups cooked long-grain brown rice or other grain of your choice

If you're cooking rice, prepare it first. You can make the entire stir fry (including veggie chopping) while the rice takes 30-40 minutes to cook. If you're using a quick-cook grain like quinoa, go ahead and prepare it and set it aside.

Get out your chopping board and set to work, chopping your vegetables into similar sizes. If I'm adding peas, I cut everything down to size; about half-inch pieces are the largest you want to go here. Keep in mind that carrots and broccoli take a little longer to cook. Generally, my mix includes carrots, celery, and broccoli as a base. But almost anything goes (maybe not potatoes or tomatoes) .

Put a heavy pan (I like to use my 10-inch skillet with tall sides) over medium heat and warm it up for about 30 seconds. Add the oil, and immediately throw in the onions and garlic. Saute these until they become almost translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add in the veggies that will take longest to cook: carrots, broccoli, etc., and cook about 10 minutes, stirring and adding water as necessary to prevent browning.

When the tougher vegetables are almost done, add the tender veggies (peas, greens, etc.). I like mine to steam a bit, so I add about 1/4 cup of water and cover the entire thing for about 5 minutes. Cook until everything is fork-tender or wilted.

Keep an eye on it so that nothing browns too much in the pan; you'll want all the liquid to cook out, but nothing to be crispy. At this point, you can add any sauce you like, but I leave it blank.*

Put a serving of rice in a bowl and top with a heaping serving of vegetables. We dress our stir-fry/steamed veggies and rice at the table with hot mustard, chile garlic paste, and tamari. Store leftover rice and vegetables separately, and you have more variety with your leftovers.

*There are two three reasons I don't make any kind of sauce for stir-fry night:
1. The two of us generally disagree on our favorite sauces (I like the peanut variety, he likes garlicky). 2. Having a huge batch of vegetables cooked without any spices or sauces means the leftover vegetables can be turned into something entirely different the next day—like quiche, omelet, enchiladas, tacos, or even lasagna. 3. Oh, and it means less to prepare/clean up.

Leftovers transforming into a new meal.
The next night... I threw the vegetable leftovers, a can of black beans, and some spinach into a saute pan until everything was heated through. I added a dash of cumin, a little season salt, and voila! Taco filling.

Multi-grain tortillas topped with the veg and bean mix, with a bit of avocado, Greek yogurt (I like 2%), and a good splash of Cholula for kick: dinner is served. I had plenty for a healthy, satisfying lunch the next day.

I marveled at how easy it was to make these two meals—and how cheap.

How do you do stir fry in your house?


Cohen Ilan said...

It's a funny coincidence that one of our resolutions was also to reduce wasting. I like The Technique, I'll try it out tomorrow too!

Claire Jain said...

Yum and yum. I'm also inclined to be sauce free.