A few months ago, I wrote about a fridge-clearing recipe for frittatas, and I'm adding stir fries, with a silly pun intentional, to this category. You may have a lot of different veggies in the fridge or canned ones (such as water chestnuts) that seemingly don't go together or aren't enough on their own to constitute a side dish that makes any kind of sense—or a main dish, for that matter. Relax. With a little planning and strategizing, you can make this work. Enter: Stir Fry-day. Bound together by a simple sauce and tossed with either rice or noodles (your choice), stir fries are endlessly versatile. While it's really tempting to throw any vegetable together that you have on hand, I caution against this: I had fennel, but I don't think it has any place in this mix.
I had a small handful of carrots that were babies; they came out of the earth that way. I had a small broccoli crown left over from the mini veggie frittata I made on New Year's Day. There was a bag of organic, pre-washed and trimmed green beans that needed to be eaten; I bought it as a way to simplify during the holidays and it got lost. And there were three or four mini sweet peppers languishing. All told, I probably had about 4-5 cups of veggies, and many of them were local. The trick is to make sure they're all basically the same size so they cook evenly. And you don't want to throw them all in the pan at the same time. The harder veggies need to be cooked first, usually with a little water to create some steaming action, and the aromatics (scallions, ginger, garlic) ideally are added last or they run the risk of overcooking/turning bitter.
Fridge-Clearing Stir Fry-day
- 1 12-ounce package of Nasoya super firm cubed organic tofu, drained
- 1-2 T. coconut or other neutral, high-heat oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 white or rice vinegar
- 1 T. cornstarch
- 1 12-ounce bag of green beans, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
- 1/3 cup carrots, halved and cut into 2-3 inch pieces
- 1 cup (a small crown) broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 cup chopped sweet peppers
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 T. ginger, run through a microplane grater or chopped finely
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 scallions, chopped finely, tough dark green ends discarded
1. Drain water from package of tofu and transfer tofu carefully onto a clean dishcloth. Take said dishcloth and place it on top of a wooden cutting board (this is important; it will absorb liquid better than a plastic one), and gently press the liquid out. You can do this with regular tofu, but you have to cube it up first and it will release way more water than the pre-cubed stuff.
2. Heat a wok or other wide-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When the pan is good and hot, add the tofu and cook for 3-4 minutes until it's lightly browned. Remove from pan, keep warm and set aside.
3. In a small bowl or a glass measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and cornstarch until no clumps remain. Set aside.
4. Add veggies and about 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover, creating steam, for 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid when the veggies have brightened in color and are slightly tender. Add the ginger, garlic and scallions, cooking until they are aromatic, for about a minute or so. Add the tofu back in, stir gently, and finally add the sauce. Stir to combine and until it starts to thicken and reduce a bit. This will happen pretty fast. Serve with rice or noodles, or as is.