Monday, April 11, 2011

Stand-By Stir Fry

When I’ve got more vegetables than I know what to do with, lounging in my refrigerator, not earning their keep, I often give up on trying something new and exciting with them and just throw them all in a stir fry. Recently what I had to work with, due to a serious case of forced refrigerator neglect, was a chunk of cabbage and some die-hard root vegetables, namely red and white daikon radishes (like the ones I described in this post), lots of carrots and a lonely turnip whose storage partner had bitten the dust.

It was either soup or stir fry. The warming weather left me with a little less need for soupy comfort, so stir fry it would be. Besides, I had a hankering for a zesty, gingery sauce that would work well with these veggies (or so I thought, and I was right enough). I borrowed that sauce from a favorite chicken stir fry recipe from Cooking Light magazine.

For me, the average week-night stir fry is highly impromptu and improvisational. There are some winning combinations that I go back to whenever I can, like green beans, mustard greens and peanuts or broccoli and water chestnuts, but I usually just fling what I have in a hot wok with some flavorful aromatics and douse it in a thickened sauce toward the end. In the case of the cabbage and these hefty, zesty root vegetables, I cut them into matchstick pieces (well, kind of thick matchsticks), which cook faster than chunks, but still retain some crunch when the frying is done. You could probably shred them in the food processor and save yourself some time (and repetitive stress) and they would cook even faster.

I think that whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand would go well with this lemony sauce. It has a great affinity for the ginger, which I julienned and added with the onions, garlic and dried chiles (you could grate it finely and stir it into the sauce instead.) With the amount of vegetables I used up in the recipe, the sauce ended up being a thick glaze with not much extra dripping down to the bed of rice on which I served the stir fry. If you like things a little more saucy, you could simply make a smaller stir fry.

That’s what I might do next time I make something like this. And there will be a next time. Although, with the way I use stir fry as a utility recipe, it probably won’t be exactly the same. And now that I finally figured out that I can just search for sauces within all those recipes out there and pour them over my wok-cooked vegetables, there might just be even more seasonal stir fries than there were before.

Root Vegetable and Cabbage Stir Fry with Ginger and Lemon
Partially based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine.

Use an assortment of sweet, bitter and spicy root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips, and daikon radishes. While the cooking time is short in this recipe, the vegetables will take significant time to prepare. If you are serving with rice, begin cooking it while you’re preparing the other ingredients.

grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup soy sauce (I used reduced sodium)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil, canola oil or vegetable oil
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
about 3 tablespoons peeled and julienned fresh ginger
1-2 dried chile peppers (I used 2 and it was quite spicy)
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
4 cups assorted root vegetables, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 bunch scallions, diagonally sliced (about 1 cup)

1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, soy sauce, and honey. Whisk together to combine. Whisk in the cornstarch until dissolved. Whisk in the sesame oil and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds or until the onions just begin to brown.

3. Add the garlic, ginger, and dried chiles. Stir fry for 30 seconds.

4. Add the cabbage and root vegetables. Stir fry for about 4 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender-crisp and lightly browned. Stir in the green onions and cook and stir 30 seconds more.

5. Stir the sauce mixture to re-distribute the cornstarch. Pour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly until thickened and the vegetables are coated with the sauce. Remove from the heat. Serve with rice or noodles. Keep leftovers in the refrigerator for a few days.

Makes 3-4 servings

Other recipes like this one: Mustard Greens and Green Bean Stir Fry with Peanuts; Seitan Stir Fry with Asparagus, Green Beans and Black Bean Sauce; Szechuan Broccoli and Water Chestnut Stir Fry

One year ago: Corn Chowder with Edamame

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