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Stir it up! Simple, Satisfying Stir-Fry

By John DiGilio in Food on Aug 13, 2012 9:35PM

Let's face it. Despite your usual eating habits, sometimes you just want something that is easy to prepare, cooks up quickly, and satisfies a healthy appetite (not to mention an appetite for something healthy!). Of course, you could just eat out. But that gets old and expensive. When you have a hankering for something hearty and fast, why not consider a stir fry? Even the most inexperienced of cooks can whip up one of these. It just takes a pan, some tasty ingredients, and a little know-how.

The beauty of stir frying, aside from its ease and speed, is that you can really have fun with it. From selecting what you will put in it to how you will serve it, the sky is the limit. As a method of cooking, it allows you to seal in the freshness and juices of meats, vegetables, poultry, and fish. Unless you are over-or-under cooking, it really is hard to go wrong. To make your stir fry experience go more smoothly, we have a few simple tips and a great recipe for you.

For a foolproof fry up:

  • Start fresh when possible: The fresher your ingredients, the better. It is hard to beat that "just off the farm" taste. But using frozen or canned vegetables and meats works almost just as well. With the farm markets really ramping up for the season, you can get a wide variety of fresh meats and veggies rather inexpensively right now. You do not need a lot of ingredients, as stir fry, when done right, can be quite filling.

  • Be creative!: A good stir fry is like a blank canvas awaiting your artistry. Play around with colors, textures, and tastes. Red peppers, leafy greens and legumes, and dark cabbages make the dish as visually appealing as it is healthy. Contrast the soft bite of mushrooms with the crisp crunch of fresh broccoli or green beans to give you teeth a treat. Tease the tongue by adding the kick of hot peppers or ginger to the sweetness of peas or corn. Sauces and spices can be changed up to really make the flavors complex.

  • Prepare EVERYTHING in advance: This dish is called a stir fry for a reason. Both stir and fry are active words and you have got to keep doing both throughout the actual cooking. The idea is to preserve the taste and nutritional integrity of your ingredients. Getting distracted by having to chop or mix something outside means that you have to take your eyes and attention off the pan. That is a sure fire way to either burn your meal or over cook it to the point of blandness. Make sure eveyrthing is chopped and ready before you begin. It's eyes on the prize here folks.

  • Cook in stages: Crafting a delicious stir fry is a sort of building process. You lay the foundation and work your way up to perfection. You start by heating the oil and prepping the pan. Next your move to add your base flavors (ginger, minced garlic, spice pods, etc.). If you are using meat, that goes next. Cook it until it almost done and then set aside to add back in at the end. You can finish cooking it through with the final ingredients of the dish. Next, you move through the vegetables and other additions, working with those that need the most time to cook first. For instance, tough vegetables like broccoli should be added before more delicate, leafy greens. You keep adding and building (remembering to re-add the meat at the end) until everything is cooked through.

  • Serve with style: Whether you plan to present your masterpiece as a main dish or a tasty side, there is no one way to serve a stir fry. The popular choices, of course, include serving it atop a bowl of rice or a bed of noodles. But why be cliche? We have had stir fry served by itself as an accompaniment to the entree. We have even had it served over quinoa and couscous. Let your tastes and moods take over here and do not be afraid to experiment. If you have done it right, your stir fry is simply going to be good.

Yes, crafting a healthy, tasty, and satisfying is just that easy. Sure, there is a lot that can go wrong. But if you are having fun and tasting along the way, it is hard to really make a mess of this meal. The stir fry lends itself well to cooking with others and is a great way to put those left over vegetables as well as other tasty odds and ends to good use. It is also as economical as it is easy. Below is one of our favorite stir fry recipes. This blend of fresh kale and crispy radishes is at once both sweet and spicy. Let us know what you think.

Simple Kale & Radish Stir Fry

1 bunch of fresh kale
1 bunch of fresh radishes (Easter egg radishes work great!)
1 package of fresh soy noodles or similar soft noodles
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons of stir fry sauce
Pinch of Chinese 5 Spice Powder or similar stir fry seasoning blend
Sriracha or similar hot sauce to taste

Prep: Trim and wash radishes. Slice into small rounds. Wash and dry kale. Remove tough spines before tearing leaves into bite-sized portions. Chop noodles into bit-sized portions.

Cooking: Begin by heating your wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Drizzel oil around pan, being sure to coat cooking surface. When oil is hot, add radish slices, stirring immediately. While stirring, radishes will begin to soften and turn translucent. As soon as you see this, stir in the kale pieces. While stirring, sprinkle in a pinch of Five Spice Powder or stir fry seasoning blend. Stir to coat. Add soy sauce and continue to stir. When kale begins to shine and turn a deep, bold green, add noodles. Keep stirring. Drizzle in stir fry sauce and stir to coat all ingredients. Add hot sauce to taste. Stir and mix until all ingredients are heated through. Be sure to not let any of the vegetables or noodles stick to the pan. When done, serve and enjoy.