Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Weekday Vegetarian 3 - with a recipe for stir fry

About once a week I make stir fry. Stir fry is really more of a method than a recipe, and I try to vary the exact ingredients to keep things interesting. Here's one, very basic version, followed by suggestions for variations.

Vegetable Stir Fry (serves four to six)


Corn or peanut or canola oil

2 Onions, cut into bite size chunks

4 Ribs of Celery, sliced on the diagonal

4 Carrots, sliced on the diagonal

2 Heads of Broccoli, cut into spears

1-2 packages of tofu (extra firm or pre-fried), cut into bite-size chunks

Sauce Ingredients

1/2 cup water

4 Tbl soy sauce

2 Tbl corn starch


A wok is nice if you have one, but a big deep frying pan works as well. The key to stir fry is high heat and constant stirring during the first few minutes of cooking. Heat the oil on medium-high. Add the onion and stir constantly. You don't want the onions to brown or wilt completely. Once the onions start to turn translucent, add the carrots, celery, and broccoli. Keep stirring. The broccoli should become shiny and dark green from contact with the hot oil. Once this has happened, add about a quarter cup of water and cover. Turn the heat down a little and let the vegetables cook for a few minutes. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together. When the vegetables are nearly cooked add the tofu and cover. When the tofu is warmed through, turn the heat back up to high, mix the sauce really well to incorporate the cornstarch, and pour the sauce into the pan. Stir everything until the sauce thickens and everything is evely coated. Stir fry is best eaten right away with plenty of plain white rice to soak up all that sauce. I often chop all the vegetables and mix the sauce ingredients during the day when my daughter is napping. That way I just have to cook everything right before dinner.

If you haven't liked tofu in the past, try fried tofu. Some places sell it pre-fried in the same types of packages that the fresh tofu comes in. You can also fry it yourself. Take a block of tofu and slice it in to 1/2 inch thick slices. Place it on paper towels, cover with more paper towels, and set a cutting board on top. Let it sit for a few minutes to drain. This will help lower the amount of splattering when it's frying. Heat a fairly generous amount of oil in a pan on medium. Add the tofu slices. Let them sit, undisturbed, until brown. Turn them over and brown the second side. Drain on paper towels.


There are endless variations on this theme. I generally add a clove of chopped garlic and/or a tablespoon of minced ginger with the onions. You can add sesame oil, sriracha (hot sauce), oyster sauce, or fermented black beans to the sauce ingredients. Some fresh scallions or roasted peanuts thrown on right before serving is nice. You can also use almost any vegetable. Sticking with my philosophy of "two vegetables of two different colors," I like to pair a green vegetable (green beans, broccoli, cabbage, or bok choi) with carrots.

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