Stir frying is hands down the best way to cook a quick meal using the season’s freshest produce. I’ve been stir frying all summer long an I intend to carry on doing so with fall’s hardier produce bounty.
Stir frying is Asia’s gift for anyone who loves to kook and for all those they may be cooking for. A seasonal stir fry never fails to deliver a gorgeous healthy meal with complex flavors, textures, color, and aromas. A few helpful tips is all that’s required for success.
I’m sure you’ve seen the cooks in Chinese restaurants at their stations tossing ingredients in a big woks set over licking flames and clouds of aromatic smoke. All well and good, but you too can produce the same results in your very own kitchen sans the pyrotechnics!
Stir frying does requires Intense heat, but I’ve found that gas, electric, and induction heat all deliver the heat required if you are using a proper wok. An inexpensive carbon steel wok made in China or a domestic upgraded version is going to give you the best results. Carbon steel responds instantly to the heat source and the bigger the better because you are going to be throwing lots of vegetables and leafy greens into that fired up wok! The more hot surface space the better the results.
A trip to your local Asian market may also be required, but with the following list of basic ingredients on hand you will be set to go!
- soy sauce
- oyster sauce
- fish sauce
- Chinese cooking wine
- Chinese lap Chong dry sausage
- Thai basil
- jasmine rice
With fall’s arrival seize the moment and expand your produce choices including baby Brussels sprouts, squash, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, kale, mushrooms and anything else that strikes your fancy.
An Impromptu Fall Stir Fry
Successful Stir frying is all about preparation and organization. Arrange all of your ingredients and cooking utensils within reach before you begin and you are set to go!
As mentioned use a large carbon steel wok or if not a large heavy bottomed skillet.
- Two of the vegetables in this recipe quire some per-preparation as follows.I pint baby Brussels sprouts, trimmed and d steamed al dent, and set aside to used in the stir fry later.
- ½ Napa cabbage, core removed, thinly sliced, placed in a bowl wit water to cover, and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes and drained before stir frying.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 links Lap Chong Chinese dry sausage, thinly sliced on the diagonal
- 2 small brown onions, peeled, halved, thinly sliced, and separated
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin batons
- 6 red and yellow baby sweet bell peppers, trimmed, seeded, and cut into thin strips
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced, and cut into thine strips
- 2 or 3 small fresh hot chiles, trimmed, seeded, and minced
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh ginger root cut into thin strips
- 2 large bunches Bok Choy, trimmed, leaves halved on the diagonal
- 1/3 cup Chinese rose cooking wine, or white wine
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce / more to taste
- soy sauce to taste
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- ½ cup chopped Thai basil leaves, or sweet basil
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 1 teaspoon cold water
- Jasmine rice for serving
Place the wok directly over the heat source on medium high. Add the oil and swirl the wok. Add the sausage and stir fry while continuously tossing until the sausage begins to color around the edges. Add the onions and fry while tossing until the onions begin to wilt. Add the carrots and continue tossing until the carrots begin to wilt. Add the sweet peppers and then the garlic, chiles, and ginger and continue tossing.
Slowly add the Chinese cooking wine and toss vigorously until most of the wine has been absorbed.
Drain the cabbage and add to the wok and toss until it wilts. Then add the Bok Choy and toss continuously until the leaves are wilted. Then add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and fish sauce while continuously tossing.
At tis point if the wok is nearly dry add a half cup of water and continue stir frying. Toss in the Thai basil and the steamed baby Brussels sprouts and continue tossing.
If you want to thicken the liquid in the pan, stir the cold water into the corn starch and stir. Then pour into the stir the stir and continue stir fry until the liquid thickens, about 3 minutes.
Finally stir in the lime juice and stir to combine just before serving.
Serve the stir fry with freshly steamed jasmine rice.
Leftovers , not to worry. Reheat in a saute pan or microwave!
There are many raspberry vine gars out there but making your own is very easy and a nice way to bottle a taste of summer that will brighten up salads this winter.
I have been using Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins raspberry vinaigrette recipe from their Silver Palate Cookbook since it was published in 1982. It is a simple master recipe that is open to endless variations for the occasion at hand.
- 8.5 ounces fresh raspberries
- 12 fluid ounces white wine vinegar
Rinse the fresh raspberries and put them in a large jar. Pour the vinegar into t jar and seal with the lid. Place in the refrigerator for 14 days or longer.
Line a large fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth set over a large mixing bowl. Pour the contents of the jar into the lined strainer and using a silicone spatula press the raspberries to extract all the liquid from the berries. Discard the crushed berries.
Pour the raspberry vinegar into a sterilized jar or decanter and let it settle until it comes to room temperature. Seal the jar or decanter and store in a dark place for up to six or moor months.
Silver Palate Raspberry Vinaigrette
Makes ¾ cup
- 1/2cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup raspberry vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pink or white peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
Place all the ingredients in a jar and sake vigorously until the vinaigrette emulsifies.
Use at once or refrigerate.
Additions and substitutions you may want to try include
- 1 tablespoon minced shallots
- 1 tablespoon full fat Greek Yogurt in lieu of the sour cream
- 1 teaspoon honey for a hint of sweetness.
Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of Mexico’s colorful history, culture, customs and of course its irresistible food that is celebrated around the world on the 5th of May.
So let the celebrations start in your very own kitchen. The first thought that always comes to mind is guacamole that has been part of the Mexican diet since Aztec times and pairs well with any Mexican meal you may be planning. The process is quite simple and the results are sublime if you taste as you go. Avocados and chiles can vary greatly but can be brought together with a balance of heat, lime juice, salt, and an attentive palate. I’ve always find this ritual as comforting as it is ultimately delicious.
Ingredient quantities are approximated and will vary to suit your own taste preferences.
Above all keep in mind this is an adventure in cooking that will continue to evolve every time you make a guacamole!
Best to prepare guacamole several hours before serving as it is best when chilled.
- 2 or 3 ripe hass avocados, green with lumpy skin or Puebla avocados ,dark with smooth skin
- a small yellow onion, finely diced, amount to taste
- serrano, jalapeno, and or red chiles, seeded and finely diced, amount to taste
- sea salt to taste
- freshly squeezed lime juice to taste
- chopped cilantro leaves to taste
- a tablespoon of avocado or olive oil ,optional, but it does add a nice richness and texture.
Cut avocados in half around the seed and and twist to remove the seeds, saving one to use later. Spoon the flesh into a mixing bowl and mash together with a bean or potato masher just until combined.
Add the diced onions, dced chiles, and salt and mash together bearing down enough to release the liquid in the onions and chiles as you mash away.
Add lime juice and swirl in until combined. Then add the cilantro and mix until well combined.
Taste and add more chile, salt, and lime juice as needed until the guacamole’s flavors dazzle like a chilled fresh lime juice margarita wit an assertive lingering heat.
Transfer the guacamole to a non reactive container and place the reserved avocado seed in the center. Legend has it that this will help keep the guacamole fresh and green. Press cling film directly onto the surface of the guacamole. Put the lid on the container and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Serve the guacamole along with margaritas and appetizers, with the main courses or a buffet. And do not be afraid to include guacamole with non Mexican meals as well. I’ll be having guacamole and salsa verde (see recipe here) with my Chinese stir fry tacos later this evening!
Za’atar chicken is a paring born out of south eastern Europe and the Middle East. Za’atar is a centuries old seasoning mixture of ground dried hyssop leaves and flowers combined with ground sumac, ground toasted sesame seeds, and sea salt. Za’atar’s flavor is as beguiling as is the regions where the herbs are grown. The distinctly minty flavor of the hyssop combined with the citrus like flavor of the sumac imparts a lovely earthy citrus note to grilled meats as well as vegetables and flat breads that make up the foundation of eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern meals.
Za’atar can be found in Middle Eastern shops and markets and, due to it’s increasing popularity with European and American cooks, Za’tar is more than likely available in your local supermarket as well.
That said many ready made za’atars may include other herbs, spices as well as chile. I much prefer sticking to the basics and mixing up my own za’atar ground and blended at home. Hyssop and sumac are readily available online. Proportions of ingredients when making your own Za’atar vary to suit your own tastes.
As there are so many tasty applications for Za’atar you will find yourself mixing up your own Za’atar at home as well as exploring store bought blends.
Za’atar Lemon Chicken:
- 2 organic chicken breasts, skin on
- 2 organic chicken legs, skin on
- 2 organic chicken thighs, skin on
1 cup full fat fat Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
- 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise and halved
- 2 lemons, thinly sliced into rounds
- 2 tablespoons za’atar
- fresh watercress as a garnish
Choose a mixing bowl that will hold all the chicken and marinade snugly.
In the bowl combine the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Add the chicken and press into the marinade until submerged. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400 F / 220 c
Needed: a shallow roasting pan
Lightly oil the roasting pan pan with a little olive oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off excess marinade, and placing the chicken pieces, skin side up, evenly distributed in the roasting pan.
Scatter the sliced shallots over the chicken and season generously with za’atar.
Place the lemon rounds on top of each piece of chicken and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season the lemon rounds with a light dusting za’atar.
Transfer the chicken to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Test the chicken using a thermometer with an internal temperature of 165 degrees f. If the chicken is not quite done pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or more if needed.
Allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before plating as pictured. Drizzle with pan juices and serve garnished with fresh watercress as pictured.
For more information on sumac and another recipe you may enjoy: Sumac Roaster Chicken (click here)