Stir frying is hands down the best way to cook a quick meal using the seasonâ€™s freshest produce. I’ve been stir frying all summer long an I intend to carry on doing so with fallâ€™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 thatâ€™s required for success.
Iâ€™m sure youâ€™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 Iâ€™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
- Â jasmine rice
With fallâ€™s arrival seize the moment and expand your produce choices including baby Brussels sprouts, squash, turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, kale, mushroomsÂ 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.
- Â½ 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
- Â 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
- Â½ 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 andÂ 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 justÂ before serving.
Serve the stir fry with freshly steamed jasmine rice.
Leftovers , not to worry. Reheat in a saute pan or microwave!
from Nigella Lawsonâ€™s new book Â Cook, Eat, Repeat
Nigellaâ€™s recipe for Fish Stick Bhorta, inspired by controversial British journalist and political activist Ash Sarkarâ€™s Fish Finger Bhorta, is sure to dust up some controversy of its own in the media, but no matter. Nigella has this uncanny way with words that turn her books and recipes into a page turners! Her inquisitive enthusiasm for food and cookery is nothing short of compelling for anyone who loves to cook and eat.
I am sure you are asking yourself, as did I, what is a Bhorta anyway? The short answer is a Pakistani, Bangladeshi, or Indian highly seasoned mashed up of vegetables stir-fried together in mustard oil. That description is most likely not going to convince you to give this recipe a try, but I was won over on the first go around.
Cook, Eat, Repeat was written during the pandemic and focuses on inventive home coked meals for one or two people, with ample leftovers, made with what is on hand. Cooking your way through a year of relative isolation has had its challenges as well as its rewards for all of us. But having had the time to experiment, savor, and reflect on how and what we eat and how we prepare our food enriched our daily lives during a year of uncertainty.Â Â
Fish Stick Bhorta
Serves 2 with some leftovers
For the pickled onions, make in advance
- Â½ red onion
- red wine vinegar or lime juice
Make your pink-pickled onions as far in advance as you can: at least 2 hours and up to 24. Cut your red onion in half- or use a whole onion if you prefer, as you will easily find yourself adding them to much else- into fine half moons. Put these in a jar with a lid, or simply into a bowl that you can cover. Pour over red wine vinegar (or lime juice) pressing down the onions until they are all just immured. Put the lid on the jar or cover the bowl and leave the onions to steep.
For the Bhorta
- 2 regular onions (approx. 10 ounces)
- 2 small red (birds eye) chiles
- 2 fat cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 12 fish sticks
- 3 tablespoons cold pressed vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons English mustard ( Colmanâ€™s) from a jar
- 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt or kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt)
- 4 oz young spinach
- 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons roughly chipped cilantro, plus more to serve
preheat the oven to 425 f
Peel and slice your 2 regular onions into fine half moons, seed the chiles (or not if you prefer) and slice them thinly, and peel the garlic. Peel the ginger and grate it finely to give 1 tablespoonful.
When the oven is hot, and your ingredients are assembled and ready, put the fish sticks on a baking sheet and cook for approx. 20 to 25 minutes, which may be slightly longer than the package directs, but will ensure the bread crumb coating is really crisp.
Meanwhile warm the oil in a large skillet or wok, and cook the onions over medium low for 20 minutes stirring regularly, by witch time they will be pale gold and soft.
Add the sliced chiles and cook, string all the while, for 3 minutes, then stir in the grated ginger, minced or grated garlic, and cook, still stirring, for another 2 minutes. Spoon in the mustard and salt, stirring to combine, then add the spinach leaves and let them wilt in the pan for 2- 3 minutes, stirring regularly, then squeeze in the juice of the lime.
Take the pan off the heat while you get the fish sticks. Break them up a bit with a spatula then add them to the frying pan or wok. Toss everything together, breaking up them up further and mashing them into the frying pan, then sprinkle in the cilantro.
Serve topped with the pink-pickled onions, adding extra chopped cilantro if wished.
Pesto making season has arrived!
Fresh basil varieties are abundant this time of year and what we cooks have been waiting for with unapologetic anticipation. Being able to stow away the essence of summerâ€™s flavors into jars or bundled into the deep freeze is a task relished. Bringing some of the bright tastes of summer back to lifeÂ at the table during the long winter months is always warmly savored by one and all.
With that in mind I came home from the market with a bundle of Italian basil and, to my surprise, a bundle of Shiso . My immediate thought was a Shiso pesto!
Most of you are probably familiar with the delicate green shiso leaves garnishing sushi in Japanese restaurants. Shiso has a fresh light mint like flavor with just a hint of citrus and cinnamon. It is indeed the perfect compliment for sushi.
Shiso is the Japanese name for what we might otherwise know as perilla in the West. It is from the mint family and originates from the mountainous regions of China and India, but now cultivate worldwide. Perilla is used throughout Asia. The Japanese use shiso for pickling and coloring umeboshi plums and fermented eggplant.
There are many varieties of shiso with leaf colors ranging from pale green, a purplish red, or leaves that are green on top and red on the undersideÂ which is what I found here in North Carolina. I do love the subtle flavor of the tender young green shiso leaves so I just had to get a large bundle of these green and red shiso leaves and see what I could do with them.
Making a Shiso pesto defers to the more subtle flavor notes of the shiso itself. What evolved was a deep purplish red pesto with notes of citrus, ginger, and mint to serve along with Japanese soba noodles. You can serve the soba noodles warm or cold along with some sauteed mushrooms. This is an ideal pairing for various mushrooms harvested during the fall months ahead.
For you pesto lovers I will be posting aÂ zesty Thai-Amereicano Pesto in my next post along with links to other pesto recipes I have posted over the years.
Shiso Pesto with Soba noodles and Sauteed Mushrooms
Serves 3Â orÂ 4
The sauteed mushrooms can be made in advance. See the recipe below.
- 2 cups fully packed fresh shiso leaves, either green, reddish purple, or reddish purple & green
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated (micro planed) ginger root
- Â½ cup walnut pieces
- 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezes lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons neutral vegetable or light olive oil
- 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- pinch of white pepper
- a bundleÂ or two ofÂ Japanese soba noodles
- toasted sesame seeds for garnish (recipe here)
If your shiso leaves are mature remove the central spine of the leaves and tear the leaves before proceeding.
Place the torn shiso leaves, garlic, miso, grated ginger, the walnuts, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until all the ingredients are broken down. Stop the motor and scrape down the sides of the work bowl.
With the motor running ad the oil in a slow steady stream through the feed tube until the ingredients form a thick paste like mixture.
Then begin adding one tablespoon of cold water at a time until the mixture is thinned out a bit and smoother. You will have to be the judge of how much water to add, but keep in mind the texture will firm up a bit when refrigerated.
Stop the motor and add the salt and pepper and pulse until incorporated. Stop the machine and taste the pesto. At this point adding the remaining lemon juice and seasoning with more salt and pepperÂ to taste. Then pulsing several times.
Transfer the pesto to a non reactive bowl, cover with cling film, and refrigerate while you prepare the soba noodles and the mushrooms.
Bring a generous pot of water to a boil. Do not salt the water.
While the water is coming to a boil, fill a bowl with very cold water and set aside.
Once the water is boiling add the soba noodles and, using tongs, continuously stir the noodles for about 6 minutes. You want the noodles to be al dente!Â
Promptly transfer the noodles to a colander and drain . Then tip the noodles into the bowl of cold water. Using your hands give the noodles a gentle wash. This washing will remove most residual starch so the noodles will not stick together.
Tip the noodles into a colander and drain well. The soba noodles are now ready for serving at room temperature.
If you want to serve the noodles warm, place them in a strainer and immerse them into a simmering pot of water until warm. Then toss the noodles in the strainer and transfer the noodles to a serving bowl or individual serving bowls.
Spoon some shiso pesto on top of the noodles and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.Â
Serve the remaining pesto in a small bowl along with the sauteed mushrooms and light soy sauce or ponzu sauce on the table.
- 1 pint of seasonal mushrooms; cremini, shiitake, or forest mushrooms
- 1 plump shallot,Â peeled and finely diced
- 1 tablespoon light olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoons sake or white wine
- sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Brush the mushrooms well to remove any soil. Snap off the stems and reserve for another use.
Slice the mushrooms thinly and set aside.
Place a saute pan on the stove over medium heat. When the pan is hot add the oil and then the shallots and saute for several minutes until they are translucent.
Add the sliced mushrooms and toss with the mushrooms. Continue doing this until the mushrooms start to release their juices. Then add the butter and continue sauteing until the juices are mostly evaporated. Add the sake and saute until the sake is mostly evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside to use later.
Zucchini is the very essence of summer for me. The shades of deep to light greens along with tinges of yellows tease your memories of endless summer meals gone by where zucchini’s presence on the table defined the taste of unforgettable midsummer meals with family and friends.
Preparation of zucchini is a lesson in less is more. A recipe is hardy required, but keep in mind, a lightness of touch and just a scent of fresh herbs is all that is needed.
Serving this roasted zucchini with a creamy polenta is a match made in heaven! (click here for polenta)
Roasted Zucchini with a Lemon VinaigretteÂ Â Â serves 4
Needed: large shallow oven baking tray
Preheat oven to 375 f/ 190 c Have oven rack placed in the middle position.
- 3 or 4 plump garden fresh zucchini, ends trimmed and cut into Â½ inch thick wedges
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
Place the wedges of zucchini in a large bowl. Drizzle the olive oil over the zucchini and toss to coat the wedges evenly.
Add the lemon thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and toss until well combined.
Place the zucchini wedges in the baking tray in a single layer. Transfer the tray to the oven and roast for 6 to 8 minutes. Then reverse the tray and roast another 6 to 8 minutes. The zucchini should be very lightly colored and softened, but still firm around the edges.
If you like you can place the try under the broiler for a couple of minutes for added color.
Transfer the tray from the oven to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
- 3 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 garlic clove, whole, peeled and pressed
- Â¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Â¼ cup olive oil
- Â¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of sugar (optional)
- freshly grated Parmigiano (optional)
In a non reactive bowl combine the shallots, garlic clove, lemon juice, lemon zest, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk until all the ingredients are combined.
Combine both oils in a pitcher. While whisking slowly begin adding the olive oils in a thin slow and steady stream while continuing to whisk vigorously. Once all the oil has been added and the vinaigrette has emulsified, taste the vinaigrette and add additional salt as needed. Adding just a pinch of sugar is optional. Cover and refrigerate the vinaigrette until you are ready to serve.
Place the roasted zucchini in a bowl and lightly drizzle the lemon vinaigrette over the zucchini, toss, and serve.
As suggested above, serve roasted zucchini along with creamy polenta is a perfect summer meal in itself.
Dusting with Zucchini and polenta with Parmigiano is optional, but a nice compliment.