Monday, February 5, 2007

Ramen-Style Stir Fry

We had a great time yesterday, although the Bears lost. What a start, though -- touchdown in the first 15 seconds of the game. Too bad it was all downhill from there. We ate the white bean dip, which actually was quite green -- I think we overdid it on the parsley -- but it was still scrumptious. And we got our blender to properly emulsify it, somehow, which was a great thrill! Maybe I don't need a food processor after all...! Just kidding. I really want one. In orange.
On Friday night we cooked up some stir-fry, and I'm going to give you our recipe here because it's a little atypical. It's his recipe, originally, and I admit that I was wary at first, but it turned out splendidly. I'll just give up the secret now -- we used Ramen noodles (chicken flavor) and the packet of spices that the noodles come with, with no additional sauce. It made a really light, refreshingly hot dish for a cold winter night, and I think we'll do it again in the near future.
You can really do anything you want when you're talking stir-fry, but it's pretty important (in my opinion) to use at least a few fresh veggies. You can throw a last chance vegetable or two in there, but it kind of messes with the texture. Try to keep mushy produce out of your stir-fry if you can. You do have the option, though, of purchasing some canned vegetables, especially if you're looking for ingredients that are harder to find fresh. We usually keep some water chestnuts and bamboo on hand for this exact purpose: it helps round out and bulk up the stir-fry, they're very tasty, and you can hold on to the cans indefinitely until you have a hankering for 'em. I'm going to jot down the recipe here, but the beauty of stir-fry? Is that you never have to make it the same way twice. You can just use whatever vegetables you have in your kitchen and it will almost always be delicious.

Ramen-Style Stir Fry
Begin by chopping up your vegetables in easy to manage pieces. If you're using the canned water chestnuts or bamboo that I mentioned above, try to keep the pieces about that size so that everything will be uniform. Same goes if you're not using pre-cut vegetables.
I'd like to mention here that before I began using vegetables routinely, I had no idea how to chop a pepper. Chalk me up as dumb, but it seems pretty complicated, especially if you've done it the wrong way first. I was always covered in seeds by the time the chopping was done, and sometimes they would even get into my food in large quantities. So I'd like to take this opportunity to thank him for teaching me how to cut a pepper:
Over a sink (and that, my friends, was the part that I wasn't doing correctly) slice around the stem and pull out the core (actually, I was doing this part wrong, too. Hahhahahha!) Cut in half, along a rib if you can, and slice the halves into sections using the ribs as a guide. You'll want the ribs to be on the edges of these slices, because that makes it super easy to remove them. Now, using a paring knife, slice out the rib and discard. Voila! Edible pepper slices!
So after you figure that whole thing out and you slice the rest of your veggies, heat a small bit of olive oil or butter in a large bottomed pan -- or a wok, which I do not own. We had a wok in college, but it got rusty somehow. After that it landed in the trashcan. When the oil is hot, throw in the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently. I like to turn the heat down about halfway through and put the lid on to steam them a bit, which makes them cook faster. Plus it keeps in some of those tasty, tasty nutrients all those doctors (and nutritionists!) are always talking about.
While the vegetables are cooking, boil two cups of water (lid on! It's such a small amount and you don't want it all to evaporate.) When the water is boiling, add about 3/4 of the spice packet to the water. The remaining spices should be put in with the vegetables to lightly coat them. If you're not down with the whole Ramen salt-packet thing (it's understandable -- 35% of your daily value of sodium for some noodles?) you can use any jarred sauce you want with your stir-fry, preferably a no or low sodium type. Wait until the noodles are cooked and mixed in with the vegetables before using any jarred sauce, though. If you're doing it with the Ramen-spice, wait until your vegetables are about finished then add the noodles to the spicy water.
Make sure the water coats the noodles, then turn off the heat. Put the lid back on and wait for two or three minutes, until the noodles are cooked.
Put a bit of the cooking liquid in with the vegetables and let it mostly evaporate. Do this a few times until you're satisfied with the liquid content, then add the drained noodles. Serve with the remaining broth on the side, in case anyone wants to turn their stir-fry into soup. If you're not using the Ramen flavor packet, now is the time to stir in the sauce so that it coats both the noodles and the veggies effectively.
This dish was surprisingly filling, given that we only used one pepper, one zucchini, and one can of water chestnuts to make it. But in our experience leftover stir-fry is not all that great. It's edible, certainly, but that doesn't mean that it will get eaten before it gets smelly and inedible.
And on that note, I'll leave you with a photograph of the delicious icy lake. It really is -30º out there today (with the windchill: is that cheating, putting the windchill in with the temperature like that? It is really windy out there, so... I think it is fair.) I hope you're warmer, wherever you are. I also hope that your office has better heat than mine does -- does an unheated room count as cruel working conditions, in this weather? Click the photo to see it in all its oversize glory. And special thanks, again, go to him for taking this photo in such cold weather. I couldn't even make myself go out yesterday under any circumstances.

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