Another weeknight, another stir fry. Sam Sifton of NYTimes Cooking recently re-pointed out his list of Asian essentials to make weeknight meals more easily delicious, and I am in utter agreement. Buying sesame oil, miso, and rice vinegar is well worth the initial investment.
There are a few important components of a stir fry—although if you’re in a hurry and neglect one or the other, sometimes good quick food is better than the best food (not a philosophy I generally subscribe to, but no one likes being hangry, and the beauty of stir fries is that they can still be damn good)—how you chop the ingredients, the order you put everything in the pan, and the amount of seasoning.
1. Chop everything so it’s all the same size. I tend to like long rectangular pieces.
2. Cook on high or medium high (and keep watching and stirring!), but make sure to put in the harder vegetables, and tofu, in the pan first. That way they can cook a bit before the flash-cooked ingredients, like green beans.
3. Season well! Add a variety of sauces, taste as you go, keep adding, let it cook down a bit, taste more, try something else… have fun!
I’m sure this would be better in a wok, but I don’t have one so I shall continue to praise my lovely cast iron.
An update re: life on Mars (thanks, Modern Farmer): apparently we should be able to grow crops there! But they’ll be missing some key nutrients that we may have to import, and could be lethal if we don’t rinse the soil. Wash your dirt and save your poop, kids.
In keeping with the end of eggplant season, this particular stir fry (and another similar one the next week) made the vegetable a star, with a few chunks of crispy tofu and other veggies thrown in too. Add whatever veggies you want. I’ve been enjoying sweet potatoes recently, and onions of course, and something green like broccoli or beans or kale.
Tofu eggplant stir fry 8 oz tofu (or whatever you'll eat) 1/2 large eggplant, or 1-2 smaller ones Sweet potatoes, or carrots 1/2 onion, or more if you like onion Hot peppers or red pepper flakes, if you feel like it Green beans, or other green vegetables Garlic Ginger Vegetable oil Sauces! Sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, maybe miso Scallions, parsley, cilantro if you want
Start by chopping all the ingredients, at least roughly the same size (carrots I cut in half lengthwise, then in slivers, so you get thin half-moons that will cook quickly). Peel the ginger and mince, along with the garlic (large pieces are fine). If you have time to marinate the tofu in soy sauce, do so.
Heat up oil in the pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add tofu and a little soy sauce and fry for a few minutes on each side until slightly golden, flipping around a few times. Add the eggplant and sweet potatoes or carrots and cook for a few minutes, stirring often (you stir and it fries). At this point, start putting in a few other sauces, tasting, and adjusting. If you use miso, dissolve it in soy sauce or something else first, or you’ll get little potent chunks. Add the onions, ginger, and garlic and cook a little more, then the beans (I like my beans remaining nice and crisp). Taste and make final adjustments, then turn off the heat and add the scallions and any other last additions.
Serve over rice. Or become full picking right from the pan.
P.S. You can grow fruit on tiny tiny (bonsai) trees! Sounds like my dream.