Here is this week’s box:
- An enormous cucumber
- a medium sized zucchini
- some green onions
- a head of cabbage
- five potatoes
- a bit of broccoli
- some flowers (we think they are zinnias)
Last night I made a beef stir-fry for dinner and used up most of the onions, the beans, some of the zucchini, and the rest of the green pepper from last week. I will share the recipe because it is not only tasty, but ridiculously easy.
Let me say that what follows here is not an authentic stir-fry recipe. Or let me say that any resemblance to authentic stir-fry recipes, living or dead, is completely unintentional. This is how I clean out my refrigerator and come up with a quick dinner at the same time.
I should also mention that we buy our beef by the half. If you imagine a brown paper grocery bag, and then imagine six of them filled to bursting, that is about how much beef you get out of a half. (Many folks prefer to buy a quarter, since this is an awful, awful lot of beef.) About two or three of those bags contain ground beef, which comes in handy in the winter time as a filler for other casserole dishes and soups. But we also get a lot of steaks. And while I like the taste of steak now and again, I personally can’t sit down to a slab of meat and just dig in. Even my husband, who has been called “Beef Boy” in the past, can only eat so much steak.
This thing about the steaks is important because you should know that I probably would not go out and buy a steak to make stir fry with. But if you have a steak in your larder and cannot bear the thought of just frying it up and carving it, or maybe you have just one or two steaks and several people who want to eat, this is a nice way to spread the love.
First off, get out your meat ingredients. They need to be sliced and then marinated for about an hour. You can also use tofu in place of the meat (so they say), or I’ve used julienned pork chops or chicken pieces as well. Sometimes both.
For the marinade, you’ll need soy sauce, mirin (sweetened sake) OR you can use a tsp of honey plus some white wine vinegar or rice vinegar; I also use red pepper flakes and a tablespoon or so of oil. My favorite oil is sesame or walnut, but you can also use a mild olive or even a vegetable oil. You only need a tablespoon, so just use what you have. The point of this recipe is to use things up, not to add rarely-used items to the pantry. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a proportion that is about four parts soy sauce to one part mirin/vinegar and one part oil. Put the meat in a bowl and cover it with the marinade, tossing to coat all the pieces. There should be just enough to coat everything. It should not be swimming in marinade. For two steaks, I generally use about 1/4 cup soy sauce (or less) plus a tablespoon each of mirin and a tablespoon or maybe even two teaspoons of oil.
Next, while the meat/protein is marinating, make a pot of rice. I use a rice cooker (since it’s brainless) but just work with whatever you have. Make whatever kind of rice you think you’d like to eat with your stir fry: brown, white, whatever. I find that wild rice and risottos are not so good with stir frys, but what do I know?
Now it’s time to get the vegetables ready. This is a very flexible recipe. It’s one of those clear-out-the-crisper-drawer kind of efforts (my favorite kind!) In addition to one or two steaks, our family likes to add some carrots, peppers, onions, peas, beans, and whatever else is hanging around that looks like it needs to be fried up and eaten. Last night we had some leftover corn-on-the-cob that I scraped off and put into the bowl, along with some cherry tomatoes. The only important thing is that you arrange your vegetables so that the ones that need longer cook times (peppers, carrots) go in the pan first, while things that just need a quick swish in the hot pan (tomatoes, green onion tops, already-cooked things) go in last. I use a large cutting board and scrape things into the pan in order. You can also use small bowls or whatever system works for your kitchen’s layout.
Heat up the pan – or, if you’re really fancy (I am not), your wok. Add a few tablespoons of quality oil. Sesame oil is good for high heat stir frying. Walnut oil also works. Olive oil is also fine (but not EVOO, that is best for uncooked dishes or low heat). Let the oil get hot (practically smoking) and then add the meat. Make sure you’ve got everything that needs fried right at the ready, because this part goes pretty fast.
Put the meat pieces in first. For thinly (1/4″) sliced steak, I usually cook the pieces for about 2-4 minutes TOTAL. As soon as they are colored on all sides take them out of the pan, for goodness sake. Even if you like your meat medium, or well done, do not let them hang out all day to turn into leather. The meat will continue cooking once the outside is seared, so you really want to get them out of there right away. Some pieces will cook faster than others, so you have to watch each piece and take it out when it’s ready. Chicken might take a minute or two longer. You can always add them back to the pan if you need to.
Toss in the vegetables once the meat has started cooking. Add the ones that need to cook longer first. Peppers, zucchini and carrots can practically go in with the meat. You’ll have to sort of wing it based on what you’re cooking. Remember, though, that the point is not to make the vegetables mushy. You’re just trying to get them slightly soft. If they were crunchy when they went into the pan, they should still be slighly crunchy when they come out.
Any extra liquid that’s in the bowl can also go into the pan. It makes a good sauce. Once everything is cooked, put the meat and veggies into a clean bowl and serve along with the rice. Enjoy!