Why so many food posts lately?! I have no idea. Deal with it. Today: Fried rice, but you know, minus the gut bomb and growing regret part afterwards, and with way more veggies than the few wrinkly peas you see sometimes.
Fried rice always feels like a.) kind of a cop-out to order takeout and b.) the unhealthiest thing ever to eat, and attempts to make it at home (at least for me) always seem to end in…. a greasy disgusting mess of overly-salty rice mush. Gross.
HOWEVER. This is not always how it has to be! You are totally allowed to mess with concepts, like “what fried rice is.” Forget your notions of $3 greasy takeout and failed attempts to re-create it! Fried rice can totally be a meal in and of itself.
Like that huge coconut lentil stew I posted last week, wok-fried rice with plenty of tofu and veggies is another great, cheap way to feed a shit-ton of hungry people or just yourself for a week straight. And honestly, it’s surprisingly healthy, especially if you add a ton of veggies, use brown/wild rice, and keep the oil and sugary/salty sauces to a minimum. (Garlic and ginger go a long way for flavor, seriously.) And once you’ve stocked up on the seasonings (most people might not always have soy sauce and sesame oil and cilantro on hand, but, uh, I do) it’s super cheap and easy. It’s also really easy to adapt to vegan or gluten-free diets, or you can replace the tofu with shrimp, chicken, pork, or steak for your meat-eating friends.
The secret is all in the prep, which is also super easy and fast once you get the hang of it. As usual, sharp knives (and a perverse enjoyment of, say, “julienning peppers”) help a ton, and a really awesome nonstick/well-seasoned wok is absolutely necessary.
You’re gonna need:
Ready? OK, cool. Let’s go.
I’ve been trying to make an effort to cook at home and bring lunch to work more often, and as a result I’ve been spending my Sundays preparing giant bowls of salads that I can grab and go in the mornings. This lentil salad is one of my favourites — it’s spicy, sweet, refreshing, filling, and ridiculously easy to make (well, if you like chopping, which I totally do, OH GOD YOU GUYS I COULD JULIENNE PEPPERS ALL DAY THE BEST STRESS RELIEF EVER IS DICING CELERY I LOVE KNIVES.) We also already know about my near-obsessive ongoing love affair with fresh mint — and this is just another option for it before summer’s over.
More in summer dinner favourites: shrimp, marinated for a few hours in a Caribbean-ish mixture of soy sauce, olive oil, ginger, garlic, scallions, lime, cilantro (buy it fresh! not frozen! it’s life-changing!), and hot pepper, then grilled (or sauteed, depending on what you have available: we know grills are hard to come by when you live in a 350 sq foot walk-up in a 52-unit building in Brooklyn, cough cough) then served over a chilled confetti orzo salad, garnished with more lime, scallions, and cilantro.
I’m a huge fan (if this wasn’t obvious already) of all things sweet-and-spicy, and of using fruit unexpectedly in savory dishes. Here, cubed grilled pineapple and mandarin orange wedges (from a can, to save time) add a summery kick to a colourful salad of orzo, red and green bell pepper, red onion, chickpeas, black beans, and corn, with a dressing made of lime juice, olive oil, ginger, tons of garlic, scallions, hot pepper, and again plenty of fresh cilantro.
Fresh mint is by far one of my favourite things to cook with during summer, and Memorial Day weekend calls for summer food and drinks if nothing else. Above, gin cocktails with muddled cucumber, mint, lime, and club soda (almost dangerously refreshing, considering that each one more than two shots of gin…) and below, one of my favourite salads (seriously, I make this almost weekly from June to September): watermelon, feta, mint, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.
And totally not involving mint, but we all basically know I can’t help myself from baking for every possible occasion… So, ginger & black pepper spice cookies with dark chocolate chips as well — to be made into mini ice-cream-sandwiches with vanilla or pistachio ice cream for dessert.
It really amuses me when things which are actually relatively simple to make - for example, sea salted caramel/toffee/chocolate - become trendy in a way which seems intimidatingly gourmet. Toffee (and other sugar-based candies like marshmallows and butterscotch) are suprisingly easy - and the addition of a dark chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt makes for an impressive-looking gift. It does take a bit of patience and probably a few botched batches before you perfect it, but when I say simple, I mean simple.
What you need for a basic butter tofffee is:
• 1 cup butter
• 1 cup sugar
• a stove, a saucepan, a wooden spoon, and a large piece of aluminum foil on a hard heatproof surface