Stir-fries are the essence of a fresh, fast dinner and, while it does take a bit of time to prep the ingredients, once the pan is searing hot, the cooking is a snap.
No wok for traditional stir-fry? No worries. A flat-bottomed skillet or sauté pan works just as well. The bigger the cooking surface, the better. You want enough area to spread out the ingredients so that the meat sears and the vegetables bounce and sizzle until lightly cooked. That will keep them tender yet crisp.
High heat is the key to success. Preheat the pan so it’s super-hot before adding the oil. Before you start, open the windows and turn on the fan. The basic technique in the recipe below provides guidelines and is open to endless variations, perfect for cooking our early summer vegetables now coming into the market. Let whatever you find be your guide to dinner. Once you get the knack of stir-frying, you’ll never need to refer to a recipe again.
Stir-fries are vegetable-focused with meat optional. They’re a wonderful way to use up the odds and ends of whatever is in the refrigerator crisper. Start with the sturdier vegetables that take longer to cook, such as fennel, carrots and celery. Then toss in the peppers and heartier greens, such as bok choy, and end with delicate baby spinach and pea shoots.
Right before you pull the pan from the stove, give it all a shot of a spicy, salty sauce. Serve this over rice noodles, white or brown rice or whole grain barley.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.
Pork and Bok Choy Stir-Fry
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: Use this recipe as a basic guide to stir-frying. Swap out the pork for chicken or beef; use whatever vegetables are in season. Right now the baby bok choy and spinach look good. Later in the season try broccoli, cauliflower or summer squash. If you are in a hurry, you could substitute your favorite stir-fry sauce for the one made in the recipe. Two locally made favorites are Maruso Thick Black Bean Soy Sauce or Hot Ghost Soy, which are thick, rich and balanced; either is a nice choice and both are available in most markets. From Beth Dooley.
• 2 tbsp. soy sauce
• 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
• 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger, or more to taste
• 3 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
• 1/2 to 3/4 lb. pork loin, cut into 1-in. chunks
• 1 head bok choy (or several small heads), about 1/2 lb., trimmed and thinly sliced
• 1 yellow pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/2-in. strips
• 1 small red or green jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
• 1 bunch green onions, trimmed and chopped
• 1 handful baby spinach
• Hot cooked rice noodles, white or brown rice, or whole-grain barley
• Chopped cilantro, for garnish
• Generous pinch red pepper flakes, for garnish
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, vinegar, garlic and ginger and set aside.
Set a wok or large deep skillet over high heat and when it’s very hot, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Add the pork and cook, stirring constantly until the meat is cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet, then toss in the bok choy, yellow pepper, jalapeño and onions, and cook until the bok choy leaves are just wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Return the pork to the pan, add the spinach, the sauce, and cook, tossing for about 30 seconds. Serve immediately over noodles, rice or barley, and garnish with the cilantro and red pepper flakes.
Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:
Fat 13 g
Sodium 350 mg
Carbohydrates 6 g
Saturated fat 2 g
Added sugars 0 g
Protein 11 g
Cholesterol 20 mg
Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1 lean protein, 2 fat.