Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Vegetarian Stir-Fry

Easy-peasy stir-fries I made in my childhood (a frequent affair) went something like this: Dump frozen chicken/veggie mix into flat non-stick pan. Add some soy sauce and a little bit of oil. Make some boil-in-bag rice. “Stir-fry” (more like boil) until veggies are cooked and soggy. Dump over watery rice and add lots of (sweet-from-corn-syrup) teriyaki sauce. Despite how unappetizing it sounds, I loved those meals.

But my tastes have evolved, and I’m eating local, fresh, organic (grown-without-pesticides if not officially organic) food whenever possible. Last Saturday, I picked up a mix of vegetables that were tucked in a basket and asked the farmer what he intended purchasers to make with it. “Stir-fry,” he said, and then after thinking a moment, “Or soup. Or salad, actually.” I went with stir-fry, and I added a few other local veggies, so that my stir-fry mix was zucchini, yellow (summer) squash, red onion, broccoli, bok choy (first time cooking bok choy!), carrots, radishes, and broccoli. Chopping it all and separating it into the groups I’d add to the stir-fry took a while, and the whole process of making stir-fry from scratch made my kitchen quite messy, but it was worth it. I served it over red quinoa, an heirloom variety of this high-protein, nutty grain that has been eaten in South America for thousands of years.

It was a great lunch to make today when I had plenty of time to chop. Here’s how I pulled it all together.

Tasty Vegetarian Stir-Fry (simple but for the chopping)

A mix of vegetables

1 block of tofu, preferably frozen, defrosted, and squeezed or pressed for 20 minutes under something heavy (or tempeh)

Several tablespoons of soy sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids

1 piece of fresh ginger, preferably frozen (Freezing it makes it easier to deal with)

1 tsp. or so of molasses

2 cloves of garlic (more or less, depending on your love of garlic)

some grain for cooking (brown rice? quinoa?) and whatever it needs with it to cook (I often cook mine in veggie broth)

1-3 T of sesame oil (or canola oil in a pinch), depending on how much stir-fry you’re making

Tasty additions or changes, such as adding toasted sesame seeds at the end . . . or exchanging honey for the molasses–whatever you feel inspired to do!

Stir-fry is a meal it is important to prepare your kitchen to make. The French term for this is mis en place–everything in its place. What that means is you go ahead and chop your veggies, pull out your spices, mix your pre-made sauce, etc., before you ever start cooking. In stir-fry, your meal comes together very quickly on the stove, and if you are chopping another vegetable or searching for your ginger while your first veggies are cooking, you’re going to end up with a soggy or burnt meal–not what you are going for. Many chefs use mis en place regularly to make meals cook more smoothly. It does make for more dirty dishes many times, but it also makes for better end results.

Back to the recipe:

Chop your vegetables and protein into fairly uniform, bite-size pieces, and separate them into bunches based loosely on how quickly they will cook. I had onion, radishes and carrots in a bowl; chopped, pressed tofu in a bowl; broccoli and bok choy in a bowl; and zucchini and squash in a bowl–to go into my stir fry in that order.

Peel and grate a 1/2" piece of ginger (or more, if you love ginger.) Mix the soy sauce, ginger, molasses, and garlic in a small bowl or ramekin. (You could also stir-fry the ginger and/or garlic in the stir-fry with the first veggies instead.)

Start the grain of choice cooking. (Of course, if your grain takes 50 minutes to cook and can sit once it’s done, you can start it while you are still chopping your veggies or even beforehand. Mine only took 15 min. to cook, though.)

Put on an apron if you want to avoid getting splattered.

Heat a tall pan–preferably a wok or other slope-sided pan–on medium-high heat. Add your longest-cooking veggies; stir regularly for about 2 minutes. Add your protein and your next veggies. Keep stirring and tossing the veggies. Continue until you have added all your veggies, with 1-2 minute intervals between additions. Add a bit more oil if your veggies start sticking to the bottom.

As soon as you have added your last vegetables, pour in your sauce, and stir well. Cover, and steam for 1-2 minutes. Stir your vegetables again. They may be done at this point; if not, keep stirring for a couple more minutes.

Serve over your grain.

I like this simple sauce in the stir-fry because it lets the vegetables’ flavor shine through while still adding something to them.

Mmmmm deeeeeelicious!*


*Dan recommends serving this meal to any spouse who has had surgery that morning to provide super fortification against any bad things happening post-surgery. The fresh, local veggies provide lots of vitamins, and the tofu, Bragg’s, and quinoa all provide protein.


bazu said...

That stir-fry sounds fantastic! I'm so happy it's farmer's market season again.

Isn't it great that our tastes change and evolve? My favorite childhood concoction was: taking a huge bag of elbow macaroni, cooking it, and tossing it with a huge jar of ragu. How did I find that so satisfying??

P.S. I love that google earth image in your previous post!

Purl_Princess said...

Yum! I am so missing tofu right now... it just goes with everything!

ArleneWKW said...

Using red quinoa instead of rice or a more usual grain seems kind of exciting to me. I like new food combinations. Re. a previous post, I'll have to try using Google Earth to figure out distances. I didn't know that was possible.

~~Midnight Raider~~ said...

Sounds yummy! I hate the chopping required for stir fry, so I often use frozen, defrosted veggies (the lazy person's way). But in the summer, I do tend to use a little more fresh. Yours looks delish!

Purl_Princess said...

No I haven't read the Omnivore's Dilemma, but I've heard of it. Highly recommended?