17th Harvest Week <> August 21 - 27, 2000

Here's another installment in my occasional series on 'recipes that use multiple box ingredients'. I didn't have nearly enough room on the printed newsletter to really cover this topic thoroughly, so I have gone into much greater detail here.  Also, I want to give credit to Kasma Loha-unchit, one of the food columnists for the San Jose Mercury News; I have incorporated some of her principles here.  - debbie

Fried Rice

Extremely versatile, this stuff is great for using up multitudinous odd leftovers. There is really only one important thing to remember: the rice must be pre-cooked (ideally, on the firm side) and completely cooled. If you use freshly made, still warm rice, you will end up with mush. I know this 'cause I've done it. So whenever you're making rice for dinner, make extra and refrigerate it for use later in the week in fried rice. And I am not a purist, so I think brown rice works equally as well as white basmati or jasmine rice.

The basic components (other than the rice) are: cooking oil, vegetables (see below), aromatic flavorings (some combination of garlic, onion, ginger, or shallots), seasonings (such as soy or fish sauce for flavorful saltiness; black or white pepper or chilies for heat; basil for aroma and added flavor, ditto for sesame oil; lime juice, or even lemon, for zing), and small bits of some kind of protein (such as tofu, sausage, seafood, egg, or some kind of meat). Leftover/cooked meat works great.  You can use raw meat too, only you would add it in the beginning to be sure and cook it through before adding the other ingredients. Be sure the pieces are small, and they will cook quickly. Either way, a little bit of the protein component goes a long way. This is why fried rice is so great for using up leftovers -- a dab or ham or turkey, part of a chicken breast... not enough for any one meal, but dice it up and it fleshes out a batch of fried rice perfectly. You get the idea. Egg is kind of in-between. Yeah, it is a raw ingredient, but you can add it mid-way through -- push your rice and whatever to the sides of the pan a bit, crack the egg in the middle & kind-of scramble it. When it is mostly cooked, go ahead and stir everything together again. The heat from the remainder of the cooking process should finish it just fine.

Here are all the various box veggies I've used at different times when making fried rice. You can use as few or as many as you like, only be sure to cut your hard veggies thinly so that they cook evenly along with the more delicate ones. And although typical fried rice is mostly rice with bits of goodies and flavorings, I have been known to have a concoction that is mostly veggies and not so much rice. But only because I've got veggies to use up! Still tastes good. Like I said, it is very versatile.

garlic, onion, leeks
scallions (some people like 'em minced up fine; I've seen 'em added nearly whole, close to the end of cooking)
sugar snap peas (stringed, maybe diagonal cut; can use whole if small)
green beans (trimmed, cut in segments, or diagonally sliced)
carrots (peeled or at least scrubbed, diagonally sliced)
celery (diagonally sliced)
broccoli (cut in small flowerettes, or peel and thinly diagonal-slice the stems)
cauliflower (same)
red or green cabbage, shredded
summer squash
peppers (slivers or dice)
corn kernels
kohlrabi (bulb part, peeled, cut in small sticks or cubes) -- texture is kind of like water chestnuts
greens of any type (spinach, kale, chard, beet greens, asian greens, kohlrabi leaves), chopped or sliced into ribbons, and you can even include their stems too, if using, say, chard or bok choi.

(ps - the diagonal-slicing bit is just frou-frou. It looks nice, but if you just want to eat, any old slices will do. For god sakes don't be intimidated by this.)

Here is a typical example of fried rice cookery:

Cut up all your veggies and meat/protein first and keep 'em nearby. The cooking part goes quickly, so there's no time for peeling or chopping once the cooking's begun! Always start by heating a couple tbsp. of oil in a nice big pan (a non-stick wok or skillet works great) over fairly high heat. Add garlic and/or onions & sizzle a bit, then add rice & toss to coat with oil. Stir one or two minutes until rice is heated through and starting to sizzle as well. Add other veggies, harder ones first, and continue stirring/tossing; keep this up until the cumulative heat starts to cook the veggies but they're still bright. Add your bits of leftover cooked meat or tofu, stir to heat through, then season w/soy or fish sauce to desired saltiness, and maybe add some chinese chili-garlic sauce or several grinds of black pepper, and/or throw in some fresh basil leaves, or cilantro, or some diagonally cut scallions and finish with a bit of sesame oil. You could also squeeze in some lime juice. Or maybe even sweeten it with a bit of diced-up pineapple... see how easy it is?

Remember, I'm gearing this dialog towards using up lots of stuff (because that's where many of us are at the end of the week -- gotta use those veggies up, 'cause tomorrow we get a new load!). But it can be equally fine with just a few ingredients, if that's all you have. There is no one way to make fried rice.

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