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!
August always delivers an overabundance of zucchini which, for a cook, calls for a little creativity if you want to transform the ordinary into something extraordinary. That may sound like a tall order, but here is a quick and easy zucchini recipe that delivers a bright refreshing zucchini main course for a late summer supper.
Meyer lemons may be unfamiliar, but I’m here to make their case with the hope that you will give them a try.
Meyer lemons are a centuries old Chinese hybrid of citron, the mother of all citrus fruits, pomelo, and the mandarin orange. Meyer lemons are less acidic than a true lemon with a hint of mandarin and scent of citron.
Nicolas Meyer, an American horticulturist, developed the Meyer lemon in 1908 and this is the variety you will find here in the US. Alice Waters and her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley popularized California cooking and introduced Meyer lemons to American home cooks In the early ‘70s.
Meyer lemons are now widely available and generally identified by a softer paler yellow skin with a sweet citrus scent. If you live in California or Florida where Meyer lemons are commercially grown you are likely to encounter various varieties and sizes. I have include a photo of two varieties I’ve found in my local farmers market a here in Hawaii.
For the recipe that follows you may of course use true lemons, but the Meyer lemons are well worth seeking out. I have found them at Whole Foods as well as and various specialty produce purveyors on the mainland as well.
Zesty Sauteed Zucchini with Meyer Lemons and Garlic
Equipment: a large stainless skillet with lid.
- 2 medium green or yellow zucchini, ends trimmed, and sliced into paper thin rounds
- 3 Meyer lemons, trimmed and sliced into paper thin rounds, seeds removed and discarded
- 1 medium brown onion, peeled, thinly sliced and quartered
- 3 plump garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- flaked sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- fresh cilantro leaves
- wedges of Meyer lemons
Prep all the ingredients and set them out on a platter.
Set the skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and swirl the pan until melted. Add the olive oil and swirl to combine.
Add the onions and saute until they begin to wilt. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
Add the lemon slices and saute briefly and then add the zucchini. Using bamboo or silicone spatula begin turning the ingredients continuously until they begin to color ever so slightly. Add 1/4 cup water and continue sauteing until the water has evaporated.
Add the wine and saute for a few minutes until the wine has parochially evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
Lower the heat and cover the pan with the lid and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. The zucchini and lemons should have a slight golden color around the edges.
Serving: Transfer to individual shallow pasta plates. Garnish with cilantro leaves and lemon wedges and serve.
I like serving this sauteed zucchini with meyer lemons with small baked mottoes topped with a good splash of olive oil, flaked sea salt, and dollops of G reek yogurt.
This, to me, a perfect light summer supper!
As the winter equinox draws nigh more fortifying meals are going to be the order of the day for the winter months ahead. There are always those favorite tried and true hearty soups and robust stews to fall back on, but adding a little variety to your winter repertoire is sure to liven things up just when it’s needed t the most.
Quiche usually conjures up thoughts of summery fresh herbs and vine ripe tomatoes, but putting a heartier wintery quiche on the table in the dead of winter will be one of those “aha” moments that is sure to please!
The recipe that follows is ripe for interpretation. Feel free to use what ever winter produce available and by all means include an assortment of herbs and spices to compliment your produce choices. I assure you It will be a lovely hearty meal that you can serve with nothing more than a winter salad with a zesty lemon garlic vinaigrette!
I have used a tradition pastry for this quiche, but If that seems like to much of a bother, by all means use a quick mashed potato crust instead,( recipe here) substituting acorn squash fort the potatoes in the quiche recipe that follows.
f Pastry shell I recommend making it a day in advance so the dough is well chilled before rolling it out the following day.
Needed: a deep 10 or 11 inch pie dish.
- 4 oz. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
- ¾ cup of vegetable shortening, chilled
- 2 ¾ cups unbleached all- purpose flour
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ cup ice water
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the well chilled butter, shortening, and salt. Mix on low speed for 2 or 3 minutes until softened. Turn the speed up to medium and mix another 1 or 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula as needed.
Turn the speed down to low and start adding the flour in three batches while continuing to mix on low until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Then begin adding small amounts of water while continuing to mix. Add more water as needed until the dough begins to come together. Then continue adding very small amounts of water until the dough holds together, but do not over mix.
Transfer the dough to a well floured work surface and kneed until the dough holds together while forming it into a ball. Divide the dough in half and flatten both halves into discs about 1 inch thick. Wrap the discs tightly in cling film and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
When you are ready to roll out the dough, transfer a round of dough to a well floured wooden cutting board, or a pizza peel. Begin rolling out the dough slowly. As the dough warms it will soften and roll out easily into an 11or 12 inch circle. Make sure to toss flour under the dough as you work so it will move freely when you slide the pasty centered into the pie dish. Work the dough evenly up the sides of the pie dish. Then make a scalloped edge around the rim of the dish. Chill for 1 hour before b blind baking. Put the remaining round of dough in the freezer for later use.
Preheat the oven to 350 f / 180 c
Lightly brush the interior and edges of the pie shell with with melted butter. and line the interior of the pie shell with parchment paper. Then fill the shell with pie weights, being sure to press them up against the sides of the dough to hold it in place as it bakes.
Blind bake the pastry shell for 25 minutes. Remove the parchment along with the pie weights and return the pie to the oven for another 10 minutes until just lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool.
Winter quiche filling:
- 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (omit if using a potato crust
- use a large butternut squash as an alternate for potatoes, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into ¾ inch slices on the diagonal
- 1 large turnip, peeled and cubed
- 3 Tbs olive oil
- 2 oz. pancetta, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 6 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and thinly sliced
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, sliced
- 1/3 cup dry vermouth
- 2 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, sliced thinly lengthwise
- ¼ cup kalamata olives, pits removed, and halved
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cups whole milk
- 4 organic eggs
- ½ ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2cup crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup grated parmigiana cheese
Pre heat the oven to 350 f / 180 c
Fill a sauce pan with several cups of water fitted with a steam baske. Fill the steaming basket with the potatoes (or butternut squash), carrots, and turnips and cover with a lid. Place the pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and steam the vegetables until they are al dente. Promptly remove the pan from the heat. Remove the steam basket of vegetables and set aside to cool.
Place a large skillet over medium heat. When hot add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the pancetta and saute until it is lightly browned. Remove the pancetta and set aside. Add the onions to the skillet and saute until wilted. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the shiitake mushrooms and saute until they begin to give up their liquid and are lightly browned. Add the thyme and rosemary and continue sauteing while adding the vermouth and saute until the vermouth is reduced. Add the sun dried tomatoes and olives and toss until well combined.
Add the steamed vegetables and toss until all the ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
When you are ready to bake the quiche spoon the sauteed vegetable mixture into the pasty shell and arrange evenly.
In a small bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, and nutmeg until combined. Pour the milk egg mixture over the top of the vegetable filling and jiggle until the egg mixture settles in evenly.
Add the feta, pushing it into the quiche filling. Scatter the parmigiana over the surface of the quiche and transfer to the oven.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the egg mixture is just set. Promptly transfer the quiche to a cooling rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Serve while warm with a salad of choice. Bon appetit !
An abundance of freshly picked sweet corn always reminds me of several opportunities I have had to indulge in savoring one on Mexico’s most unusual delicacies, huitlacoche.
Huitlacoche is the Aztec name for a fungus that grows on maturing corn during the wet season in central Mexico and parts of north America.
Anyone who has wandered into a corn filed in mid summer would more than likely encounter a spongy foamy fungus in various shades of gray on some ears of corn. This is called corn smut in the US and huitlachoche in Mexico. Corn smut is not a particularly enticing descriptive, but putting that aside, think of huitlacoche as Mexico’s truffle with a unique delicate earthy mushroom like flavor with an umami note. Huitlacoche has been prized in indigenous cultures in the American southwest and Latin America from ce pre-columbian times.
Fresh huitlacoche may be available when in season in some select Latin American markets. It is also available in jars and cans from various sources online, though the flavor is altered in processing and really not worth purchasing.
With that in mind I came up with a huilacoche alternative years ago that has satisfied my own cravings for those sublime flavors savored while in Mexico. Rest assured, all the ingredients required for my recipe are readily available in your local supermarket.
Drawing from recollections, my favorite huitlacoche dish would have to be a grilled corn omlette filled with huitlacoche set atop a mild fresh milk cheese and garnished with a few fresh cilantro sprigs and a picante salsa verde. It was perfection!
My huitlaoche alternative
Makes enough for 3 servings
A little multi tasking before you get started requires grilling or broiling the mushrooms and corn before you proceeding with the recipe.
- 2 tablespoon sunflower oil, divided
- 4 ears fresh sweet corn, husk and silk removed
- 2 largish portobello mushrooms / 6 oz/ 70 g
- 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
- 6 oz/ 70 g baby spinach leaves, well rinsed
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- ¼ teaspoon epazote or oregano
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
Fire up grill grill or preheat your oven broiler. Brush the portobello mushrooms and corn lightly with oil. Place on the grill or on a baking tray and grill or broil all, turning both the mushrooms and the corn until nicely browned. The mushrooms will require less cooking time so keep an eye on them. Remove them when they have softened and are giving up their moisture and set aside to cool.
Continue grilling or broiling the corn until the kernels are well browned on all sides. Remove and set them aside to cool. Save any pan juices if you have used the broiler to use later.
When the mushrooms are cool slice and dice them and place then in a non-reactive bowl. Add any reserved pan juices and cover.
When th corn is cool slice the kernels off the cobs, place them in a mixing bowl and set aside until you ready to make the omelettes.
To finish the huitlache mixture add the remaining oil to a skillet set over medium low heat and add the garlic. Saute 30 seconds and add the spinach and saute until wilted. Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until the spinach is very soft. Add the salt, tamari, fish sauce, epazote or oregano, and the cream if using. Lower the heat and continue to saute until all the ingredients are very soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the mixture warm while you make the omlettes.
Grilled Corn omlettes
For each omlette:
- 3 organic eggs
- pinch of salt
- a splash of water
- 1 teaspoon salted butter
- 1/3 cup grilled corn kernels
- 4 thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
- salsa verde (see recipe here)
- sprigs of fresh cilantro
- Crack the eggs in a bow and add salt and a splash of water and whisk vigorously until foamy.
Place a large non stick skillet, or my preference, a 10 inch nonstick crepe pan, over medium low heat. Add the butter to the pan and swirl to distribute evenly. Add the corn and saute for a minute or two and the spread the corn evenly over the surface. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the surface and tilt the pan so the egg mixture covers the entire surface of the pan. As the eggs begin to cook and firm up tilt the pan so any remaining liquid mixture fills in any gaps.
Place slices of fresh mozzarella over the surface and then spread warm huitlacoche mixture across the center of the omlette. Once the omlette is firm, using a silicone spatula, gently nudge the omlette away from the sides of the pan and fold it away from you over the huitlacoche filling. You can then nudge the omlette over the remaining exposed omlettete and slide the omlette onto a plate for serving.
Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and salsa verde to one side and serve.