Actually, no. It’s not. And that’s the message I hope to convey with this blog. This is my very first post, by the way. Thanks for giving it a read.
So…dinner. I don’t want to sound preachy (even though I am a food evangelist), but dinner should be an event—something that has meaning beyond preventing being dragged off to social services for starving your family. I don’t think we should “settle” when it comes to eating, and every meal should be special in some small way.
In pursuing this idea of making meals—especially regular, weeknight family meals—special, I do often put extra pressure on myself. Last night is a perfect example. I had been out of town for several days, so the refrigerator was pretty bare. Plus we had a full afternoon of math worksheets, ice-skating lessons, and soccer practice. Some spaghetti tossed with a jar of sauce would have fit perfectly with my my schedule. But I decided on using the fresh veggies we did have for a stir-fry instead.
Stir-fry is a little like scrunchies and creme brulée—a fad that you didn’t really notice was a fad but now it isn’t trendy anymore. But in the 90s it was huge, right? I got a very cool Calphalon wok for my 30th birthday, and it was one of my favorite pans until a few years ago when I got my 14-inch Anolon Advanced nonstick skillet, which is not just one of my favorite pans but something I think I’d save in a fire. Even though stir-fry might not be a hot food trend, it’s still worth making; it’s a great way to use up random veggies and things like frozen shrimp.
Stir-fry is easy to make, but often I think it’s not as good as it could be. So I thought I’d make my first post a brief Stir-Fry Lesson. The key is to cook everything in the right order and very quickly. Before you start, make a huge batch of brown rice (seriously, huge—you can use leftover rice for fried rice, rice pudding, side dishes, etc. all week long). I make almost an entire bag of Lundberg short-grain brown rice at a time.
Cut the vegetables in large-bite-size pieces (I used red pepper, zucchini, summer squash, asparagus and mushrooms). Heat some olive oil (I use extra virgin olive oil for almost everything) and crushed garlic on medium-high heat in a large skillet or wok if you still have one. When the oil is hot, add the red pepper, cook for two minutes, then add the asparagus, cook for two minutes. I usually add the squash and mushrooms at the very end. The idea is for the veggies to stay crisp (if you’re using broccoli, which is great but I didn’t have any, add it in the beginning, too.), so base the order of adding them on their relative cooking times. As my five-year-old said, “It’s like a hot salad mixed with vegetables.”
Once the veggies are cooked, dump them into a bowl and cook the meat separately using the same pan. I used a bag of partially thawed shrimp, the big, fat kind; I cut the tails off, but it’s fine to leave them on if you don’t mind getting your fingers a little messy while you’re eating. You can also do cut chicken, beef, or tofu of course. When the meat is almost done (pink throughout for shrimp), toss the veggies back into the hot pan. Add a little soy sauce, a few drops of fish sauce, or whatever sauce you like. I used about 2 cap-fulls of soy (the tamari kind) and a teaspoon-ish of fish sauce, plus a few shakes of crushed red pepper. The water from the shrimp mixes with the condiments to make a nice but light sauce, I must say. Here’s how it looked.
Serve the stir-fry right away with the brown rice. We like things hot and spicy so I always have a bottle of Huy Fong Sriracha chili sauce on hand. That stuff is the bomb. We rounded out the meal with some edamame mixed in green salad. Pretty special and totally doable on a Monday night, by the way.