Sunday, May 13, 2012

Easy Stir Fry Vegetables

One thing I get complimented a lot on is my preparation of vegetables. Vegetables are good and I like them a lot. Veggies are good and Chrissie didn't used to like them much at all, until she had my stir fry veggies. I'm not going to get into how vegetables are good for you, blah, blah, blah. You can read that lots of other places. I will tell you how to make them quickly and tasty.

The cooking & prep time is about 15 minutes. Ingredients are vegetable(s) of choice, vegetable oil, salt, and maybe water. All you need for equipment is a fry pan with a lid. You don't need a wok. The whole deal with woks are that they conduct heat well and require less fuel/energy to get hot. Woks are popular because they are pretty darn good at what they do. Woks are Asian totally by happenstance. Coincidentally, so am I.

You can stir fry any vegetable. Pick you favorites and throw them in the pan. Some of my favorites are green beans, snap peas, carrots, broccoli, spinach, and cabbage. If you mix and match, take a little time to game plan. Come up with a cooking order for the veggies. For instance, leafy greens don't take as much cooking time as beans or roots, and if you cook them all for the same amount of time they will get wilted. Put them in the pan after the thicker things have had some time to cook. Also, if you have items of different sizes, cut them up so they are close to the same size. This way, they all cook at the same rate and will finish at the same time.

1. Prep and wash vegetables.
2. Heat pan on medium-high heat.
3. After the pan gets hot, put in vegetable oil. Let it heat up.
4. When the oil is hot (you can tell because the pan will be "smoking") put in your vegetables.
5. Mix the veggies in the pan. Try and coat the oil over all the vegetables.
6. Add salt to taste.
7. Keep mixing. Do this so that you avoid burning.
8. If necessary, add some water and cover with lid. This will steam the vegetables.
9. Remove veggies and serve.

Times are a little variable. It depends on how many vegetables you have in the pot and how raw you like your veggies. Normally, it takes 5-8 minutes for Steps 5-7 and 1-2 minutes for Step 8. A good indication that you are done is when your veggies start to get char marks on them.

Step 8 is totally optional and to taste. In my experience, it really helps to "finish" the veggies. What steam does is it quickly cooks areas that are still raw and evens everything out. For instance, when I cook broccoli, the outsides are cooked but the centers still taste raw, but if I use Step 8, the steam penetrates the crown and cooks the center. For leafy greens like spinach and swiss chard, I don't take time to remove leaf from stem, so I am faced with an issue with cooking time. Stems take longer than leaves. What I do then is after the leaves are mostly cooked, I finish with steam and the timing works out great. Be really careful with Step 8. It only takes seconds to go from perfectly cooked to over cooked. I am told that stir fry masters can achieve even cooking without the use of steam. I imagine that they take the time to do the little things like make every chunk in your stir fry evenly sized, but for my quick, easy (and inexact) way, I go with steam.

Lastly, practice makes perfect. Every step requires proper execution. Unfortunately, if something goes wrong, you're going to taste it. For me, the difference between properly executed and kind-of-properly-executed is pretty big. Fortunately though, the recipe is so fast, you can really pay attention to what you are doing so even if you screw up, you can keep track of what happened and do better next time.

What I'm looking for in my stir fry veggies are crunchy texture. The color should be bright and shiny. I should taste the actual taste of the veggie, salt, and a little bit of sweet, but I don't like getting any raw veggie taste. If I get droopy or wilty stuff, then it's been cooked too long. If you don't get sweet, then the oil wasn't hot enough when you put the veggies in the pan. Same thing if you don't get a bright and shiny color.

There's really nothing to show in the steps, so here's a look at the finished product:

French cut green beans and sugar snap peas

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