Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fast and Easy Dinner: Stir-fry

Stir-fry has the reputation of being a time-consuming meal because of the vegetable prep required, but it's my meal of choice when we get home late. Some vegetables are quicker to prepare than others; green beans, carrots, broccoli, and asparagus require very little time. We forgo meat in our stir-fries and use egg, tofu, or nuts.

I realize that this long recipe doesn't look like a fast and easy dinner, but it does become one with practice. I can have stir-fry on the table with white rice in 20 minutes. It took me longer to type this than to make tonight's dinner, a green bean - carrot stir fry with egg.

If you want an easy dinner the next night, cook extra rice, and make fried rice. More on that another day.

Stir-fry Steps
  1. Drain & press tofu if using (details below); at dinnertime, start baking it.
  2. Start the rice, especially if using brown rice
  3. Clean and chop vegetables
  4. Make sauce
  5. Cook egg if using
  6. Stir-fry vegetables when rice is about 10 minutes from done
  7. Add sauce, reduce heat, and steam veggies until done
1. Tofu:
Drain, wrap in 2 clean dish towels, and place between 2 plates in the refrigerator. This can be done hours before dinner. Cube and toss with a couple of tsp each tamari or soy sauce and sesame oil. If baking, preheat oven to 400F and oil a baking sheet; start the tofu about 30 minutes before you plan to eat. Higher temperature will yield crisper tofu. Tofu can also be prepared in thin slices and baked, then served over the vegetables like cutlets. To cook on the stovetop, after starting the rice, heat canola or peanut oil to high temp and saute the tofu; remove from pan and set aside.

3. Vegetables:
Use what you like, and whatever variety you like. Cut enough vegetables for one meal. Sort into 2 containers: quick-cooking (asparagus tips, for instance) and slow-cooking (larger pieces of broccoli, carrots unless julienned, etc). Vegetables can be prepped early in the day and refrigerated until dinner.

4. Sauce:
There are many jarred sauces, but most of them contain lots of sugar, salt, and/or MSG... and they're simply not necessary. For a stir-fry for 4 people, I use:
1 c water
1 tsp vegetable broth powder (I like Seitenbacher and Rapunzel; both are available at natural foods stores and online)
minced garlic and ginger to taste - at least 1 tsp each (fresh is best, but I won't tell if you use powdered)
1-2 tbsp of something acidic - some dry wine, sherry, mirin, or rice vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch
optional additions: 1-2 tbsp ketchup, 1 1/2 tsp curry powder, or 1 tsp honey

5. Egg: I use 2 eggs, beaten by hand, and cooked into a thin pancake. I slice this into long ribbons or small squares and add to the vegetables after adding the sauce. Cook the egg first, in the same pan that you will use for the vegetables.

Nuts: Cashews, almonds, or walnuts are what I use.

6. Now, put it all together:
Heat 1 tbsp canola or peanut oil over high heat. Add the slow-cooking vegetables and stir-fry for a minute or two. Add the quick-cooking vegetables and stir-fry for a minute or two.

7. Add the sauce, reduce the heat, and add egg/tofu/nuts at this time; cover and keep at a slow simmer for 5-10 minutes until vegetables are at desired crispness.

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