The past few months have been a world-wind of activity for me. So much so, that I missed the one-year anniversary of my culinary blog, June 7 (Yaaaay!). I had planned a dessert exposé to share with my readers as a celebration. However, those plans came and went with the days and weeks on the calendars. So, when I found time to write, I thought about my recent at-home culinary adventures – which have been easy, lazy, quick cooking that takes advantage of the long summer days. It also makes it easy to entertain drop-in guests and have impromptu gatherings.
Fresh summer produce is the two parts easy and one part lazy of the mantra of summer cooking. The farmer’s markets are brimming with such great produce that taste incredible on it’s own. A sprinkle of salt, a drizzle of oil, and crack of fresh pepper makes for good eating. Gild the lily and throw in a hand full of fresh herbs. Fresh herbs are plentiful and herbs garden are begging us to prune them and snip back their abundance – I know mine is.
As for quick cooking – what beats a stir-fry? Nothing beats a stir-fry expect an all in one stir-fry dish like Pad Thai or Fried Rice. Vegetable, protein, and starch mingle together over high heat until just crisp and a swirl of sauce finishes the dish just before plating. On the other hand, skip plating all together. Bring the wok to the center of the table and allow everyone to serve themselves – family style… easy, lazy, and quick family style.
This recipe looks like many steps and many ingredients; but it all comes together in 30 minutes with proper time management – I promise. First, set noodles to soak; salt cabbage; make sauce; chop the vegetables; and stir-fry! Remember that stir-frying is a fast and hurried affair – have everything ready to go the minute you start heating that wok or large skillet. Do not walk away and do not stop stirring. You can use any vegetable you like that lends it’s self to quick cooking. Use what you have on hand. The same goes for protein – use what you have on hand.
My Recipe: VEGETABLE PAD THAI makes 8 – 10 servings
16 oz rice noodles, thin or rice sticks
½ small green cabbage, shred
2 c broccoli florets, halved
2 carrots, peel and julienne
1 red bell pepper, core and julienne
½ red onion, peel and julienne
1 c green beans, cut on the bias into 2” pieces
1 c bean sprouts
4 large eggs, beaten
4 garlic cloves, rough chop, divided
1 # extra firm silken tofu, drain and cut into cubes
¾ c canola oil, divided
4 fresh peeled tamarind pods or 4 T tamarind paste
6 T lime juice
2 T sambal oelek or sriracha chili paste, more to taste
6 T fish sauce
6 T light brown sugar
¼ c hot water
water, to soak noodles
lime wedges, for garnish
chopped green onions, for garnish
cilantro leaves, for garnish
chopped roasted peanuts, for garnish
Place rice noodles in a large bowl; cover with cold tap water and allow to soak for 20 minutes; drain well before use; noodles will be pliable, but not soft
Place shredded cabbage in a bowl, sprinkle liberally with kosher salt; toss; and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the salt to draw water from the cabbage; rinse well before using
Pour hot water over tamarind pods; stir to remove the pulp from the pods; let rest for 10 minutes; and strain to remove the seeds and set liquid aside; If using tamarind paste, simply add hot water, stir to dissolve paste and proceed with recipe; no soaking required
Combine tamarind juice with brown sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and sambal oelek; stir until brown sugar dissolves; set aside
Meanwhile, chop all of the vegetables and tofu; drain rice noodles; rinse the cabbage; and get that wok or extra large pan heated over high heat – time to stir-fry!
Add ¼ c canola oil to hot pan; add tofu, fry for a minute; add ½ chopped garlic and cook for another minute; remove from pan and place in a large bowl
Add vegetables, starting with the heartiest (carrots, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, peppers, red onion, and bean sprouts); stir-fry for 4 minutes; remove from pan and place in the same bowl as the tofu
Add ¼ c canola oil and scramble eggs, approximately 30 seconds; add drained rice noodles and remaining oil; stir-fry for 2 minutes
Return vegetables and tofu to the pan; toss well together; add sauce and cook for another 2 minutes until all vegetables are crispy, rice noodles are soft, and sauce lightly coats them everything
To serve: mound Pad Thai on a platter and garnish with lime wedges, chopped green onions, cilantro leaves, and chopped roasted peanuts… or set the pan in the middle of the table, set all the garnishes on the table… Spice heads might want more chili paste!
Pad Thai, like fried rice, has very few rules to have successful results. The vegetables must be fresh. The vegetables must be uniform in size to ensure that they cook evenly and crisp. The protein can be cooked or raw, chop uniformly. Add cooked protein toward the end of stir-frying to warm through. Add raw proteins earlier to cook properly. The oil is always neutral – canola, peanut, vegetable, etc. The sauce and aromatics, strong and highly flavored, finish the dish.
A bag of rice or wheat noodles, in the pantry, or leftover plain rice, cooked earlier in the week, are the final component to stir-fry. The starch, soaked rice noodles or leftover white or brown rice, need to be cold, stiff, or par-cooked so that it does not clump and stick to the bottom of the pan or become mushy and downright nasty.
The final component is the fire. Become a master by adding and removing foods, as needed, to control the fire. Control the fire. Become the fire!
Fried Rice Recipe:
Ingredients: For every cup of leftover rice, use 1 cup of chopped vegetables; ¼ cup chopped meat, shellfish, and/or tofu; 1 beaten egg; 1 teaspoon each finely minced garlic and fresh ginger. Finishing sauce: For every cup of leftover rice, use 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil. You will need only 1 ½ tablespoon of neutral oil for each cup of leftover rice, divided. Garnish with chopped green onions.
Method: Heat large wok or skillet; add ½-tablespoon oil; add vegetables, garlic, and ginger; stir-fry for a minute; remove from pan. Add ½-tablespoon oil to pan; add protein; stir-fry for two minutes; remove from pan. Add remaining oil; scramble eggs; add leftover rice; stir-fry for 4 minutes until rice is hot. Add vegetables and protein back to the pan; combine well; and add finishing sauce. Plate and garnish with green onion.
Thanks for reading and celebrating one-year of good eating with me.
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!