Quick Meals

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.

Ingredients

  • 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!

 

 

Cornbread muffins with grilled corn, jalapenos, and cheddar

Corn muffins with grilled corn, jalapenos, and cheddar

 

Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is as American as apple pie. It is just one of those staples that everyone has turned to in a pinch at onetime or another. Myself included during my art school days when cooking was limited to quick serviceable meals that had nothing to do with cuisine. That was to came along later in my life.

That said, Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix is a staple created by Mabel White Holmes back in 1930. The Holmes family still owns the company and he original cheerful blue and yellow packaging has remained mostly unchanged ever since. Whenever I see a box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix on the shelf I just can’t resist picking one up! Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix has been a dependable partner for countless quick yummy corn muffin hacks I’ve whipped up over the years.

Summer is after all  about grilled meals and corn muffins are always a perfect comfort food accompaniment! The recipe that follows is a tried and true favorite of mine that requires very little time to make and these muffins are always a huge hit.

Corn Muffins with grilled corn, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese.

Makes 8 muffins

Grease a muffin tin with melted butter

preheat oven to 450 f / 245 c

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix 
  • 1large organic egg
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons cultured buttermilk
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup grilled corn kernels 
  • 1or 2 grilled jalapenos, skin and seeds removed, and minced
  • ¾ cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese, divided

Place the corn muffin mix in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg and whisk briefly. Then whisk in the buttermilk  and salt. Fold the ingredients together just until they come together using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

Add the corn and jalapenos and fold them into the batter without over mixing. A few lumps are fine.

Then fold in ½ cup of the cheddar cheese and set the batter aside to rest for 15 minutes.

Fill each muffin cup ¾ full and top off with the remaining cheddar.

Bake for 15 or 20 minutes until the muffins are lightly golden brown.

Serve warm, with pats of butter (optional)

from Nigella Lawson’s new book   Cook, Eat, Repeat

 

Fish Stick Bhorta

 

Nigella’s recipe for Fish Stick Bhorta, inspired by controversial British journalist and political activist Ash Sarkar’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.  

Fish Stick Bhorta

Serves 2 with some leftovers

For the pickled onions, make in advance

  • ½ 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 ( Colman’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.

Thai Stir Fry with rum Marinated Pork loin and Chayote

Thai Stir Fry with rum Marinated Pork loin and Chayote

 

When the hot season, April- June, arrives in Thailand the last thing you want to do is spend much time in the kitchen. With temperatures tipping 40 c/ 104 f daily it is really HOT!

Being a hot country year round Thai cuisine has a unique hot weather appropriateness. Flash cooking fresh ingredients tossed together with assertive flavors and fiery spicy heat is what makes Thai cuisine so universally popular. The capsacin from fiery hot chiles stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain that instantly produces a sense of euphoria, while breaking into a sweat from the heat of chiles has a pleasant cooling effect as well. No wonder everyone loves Thai food!

The recipe that follows is a reinterpretation of a popular Thai stir fry dish; Kra Pao Moo (click here for recipe) . I have upped the ante in this recipe using a Thai rum marinated pork loin and included chayote to the stir fry that adds a fresh crisp element to the final dish.

Chayote

Chayote

Chayote originates from Central Mexico and widely used throughout Central and south America. Chayote was introduced to the old world during the Columbian exchange. From there it was transported through trade routes throughout Asia. Chayote is a member of the gourd family, and favored for its crisp texture and plentiful nutrients. The entire plant is eatable and often included in stir fried dishes throughout Asia. Seek it out! Widely available in Latin and Asian markets in North America as well.

 

Thai Stir Fry with Rum Marinated Pork Loin and Chayote    serves 4

To avoid the heat of the day during the hot season I like to marinate the pork in the morning and refrigerate it for the rest of the day. Prep all the other ingredients in the morning as well and refrigerate. That way the stir frying can be done very quickly in the evening without breaking a sweat!

Marinade:

  • 1 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced, and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced and diced
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 3 kaffir/ makrut lime leaves
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup Thai Sang Som rum (or other dark rum)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound pork loin, silvery membrane removed and cut into 3 pieces
  • cold water to cover

Select a non reactive bowl just large enough to hold the pork loin and other ingredients. Place all the ingredients except the pork and water into the bowl and stir to combine. Then add the pork loin and, using your hands, massage the pork with the mixture until covered. Then add just enough water to cover all. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for 8 hours.

Thai Red Chiles

Thai Red Chiles

Stir Fry:

  • marinated pork tenderloin, thinly sliced into medallions across the grain
  • 2-4 teaspoons oil
    1 onion, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered, seeds and membrane removed, thinly sliced and halved
  • 2 chayote, peeled, halved, pit removed, sliced lengthwise and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 or 2 jalapeno chiles, quartered, seeds and membrane removed, cut into thin strips and diced
  • 1-3 Thai red chiles, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed and very thinly sliced and then diced
  • reserved marinade
  • ½ cup fresh Thai sweet basil leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons oyster sauce or to taste
  • stock or water
  • additional fish sauce to taste
  • fresh lime wedges

A steel Chinese wok is ideal for stir frying food very quickly over intense heat. For more information on cooking with a wok (click here)

Heat your wok over a gas burner or charcoal fire and add the oil. Swirl the pan to coat the surface and promptly add the pork medallions and stack them all the way up the sides of the wok. Sear briefly and then turn the pork and continue searing. Once lightly browned promptly remove the pork from the wok and set aside. Total cooking time 2 to 3 minutes max. Reserve the marinade to use later.

Add a little more oil to the wok and add the onions, garlic, and red bell peppers. Toss and stir fry until softened and lightly colored. Then add the chayote and toss to combine. Stir fry for a couple of minutes and then add the jalapenos and Thai red chiles and toss until combined. Then add the reserved marinade and cook for a couple minutes. Taste the chayote. Ideally you want the chayote to retain a refreshing crispness that will compliment the otherwise deeply flavorful stir fry.

Add the basil leaves and toss to combine. Taste the broth and add additional oyster sauce and fish sauce to taste. If the broth has reduced quite a bit you can add a little stock or water.

Finally add the reserved pork and toss until just heated.

Serving:

Just before serving squeeze some lime juice into the stir fry, toss, and you are ready to serve.

Serve with Thai Jasmine rice or, my favorite, Thai Jasmine brown rice. Have a bowl of lime wedges set out on the table as well.

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