We all have those days. Those days when you feel like you have no energy to make a decent dinner, no ideas for something different, and no good left overs to toss in the microwave. I seem to have more of those days through Feb/March. I think it is just plain old fatigue that sets in. How can you get jazzed about cooking when you live somewhere like Edmonton where at this time of year fresh produce seems like a distant memory? Not only are there few fresh local ingredients to work with, but even going to the store seems like a huge endeavor, requiring car pre-heating, and then dashing through cold parking lots just to get in. It is times like this that people all catch colds and/or the flu, and times like this that I fall back on the basic stir-fry.
Stir-frys of all sorts were a staple when I was back in school. You can make noodles or rice once, and then use the left overs for days, and that leaves you with one pot a day for cooking something to put on top. The elements are always the same: a meat (sometimes that gets skipped), whatever veg happens to be in your crisper, and a sauce so that it is all pulled together somehow. Today I was lucky enough to have left over coconut rice, so I didn't even have to make that.
I started by chopping up a pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is such a great lean protein. It is still really inexpensive compared to other meats, and my favorite part is that one small tenderloin is perfect for a meal for two and leftovers. Next, I rummage around for the veg. I have some baby corn, broccoli, mushrooms, red pepper, and onions - not too bad really - stir-frys can be really great nutritionally, which helps with the above mentioned cold/flu problem. The key to a good stir-fry in my opinion is a hot pan. I sometimes use a wok, but other times just use a really large frying pan. Add a bit of oil, and toss the meat in until it starts to brown a bit. Once browned, add the veg one at a time, starting with the one that will require the most cooking. I allow enough time in between to allow the pan to get nice and hot again. At some point a whole pile of garlic and grated ginger go in as well. Finally, right at the end, I throw in the sauce. If the pan isn't hot, the sauce will stay watery instead of getting that nice stickiness that makes it like the take out you get.
Garlic and ginger to be added with veg (I used 6 garlic cloves and about a teaspoon of finely grated ginger)
1/4 chicken broth
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch
The last three ingredients should be mixed in advance so that the cornstarch is all dissolved, and not in little clumps that will otherwise turn into dumplings. The sauce is very flexible in being altered to your own personal taste, but these proportions will give everything a nice coating of flavor. I also like to throw some sesame seeds or cashews into the pan at the very end for a second.
Who could ask for a meal that is faster? It's a great fridge cleaning meal that incorporates a lot of veggies - the food group we probably skimp the most on through the winter.