If I had to pick the quintessential Anderson-Burrows nuclear family weeknight meal, it would be “vegetable and protein stir-fry over brown rice.” The vegetables change a bit (onions, garlic, and bell peppers are pretty constant), as do the spices (basil, fennel and oregano one time; ginger, soy and black bean sauce the next) and proteins (chicken tenders, Italian sausage, tofu), and sometimes it goes over pasta instead of rice, but those words basically describe about half the meals I remember growing up.
And why not? It’s nutritious, gets you eating lots of vegetables (especially with a salad on the side), reasonably quick and easy, and in the summer, it doesn’t heat up the whole house by using the oven. So this became my default method of cooking my junior year (the only time in undergrad I lived off-campus, though I still had to buy a meal plan and didn’t actually cook that much as a result).
It does, however, get a bit old after a while. Sometimes the staples could use a bit of revitalizing. So when I saw a recipe for ginger fried rice on Smitten Kitchen (yup, that site again), I remembered my family’s stir-fries and wondered if this was the way to make leftovers taste a bit more special without having to spend a lot of time over the stove or wash a lot of dishes (did I mention yet that we don’t have a dishwasher in this house?). I made a pot of mixed rice and green lentils – can’t say no to a little extra protein – on Sunday night and stir-fried some vegetables and ginger on Monday. Then I set aside most of the vegetables, added a scoop of rice to the pan, and let it all get just a bit crispy. (Or tried to, anyway. It would have gotten crispy if I hadn’t added too much water to the rice and lentils and let them get sort of overcooked.)
As the “protein” component, I cracked an egg over the hot fried riced and stirred it in as quickly as I could, so there were little scrambled egg chunks throughout the dish. If you prefer larger pieces of scrambled egg, making an omelette, letting it cool a bit, and slicing it up is probably the way to go. Fried egg fans will like the original recipe’s version (a fried egg on top). I remember eating a rice dish in Japan that was served very hot in a stone bowl; a raw egg was cracked over the top, and you mixed it in with your chopsticks so that the heat of the rice and bowl cooked it. You might be able to do with with leftover fried rice heated up a lot in a microwave; I’m not quite that brave. Even if you pan-fry the rice, cooked vegetables, and egg together every night, it takes less than 10 minutes and only one pan. I can live with that.
The final produce is impossible-to-screw-up comfort food: warm and filling, even if you did overcook the rice (oops) and not put enough oil in the bottom of the pan (the nonstick coating on the bottom of the wok is mostly gone). The egg disappears into the bowl (you may even want to add 2 per serving), except that it all tastes a bit fuller in flavor and heartier. This is one simple meal I can whole-heartedly recommend.
Ginger Fried Rice
Adapted very loosely from Smitten Kitchen.
Yield: 4 servings.
1/4 c oil (I used olive, Deb recommends peanut)
1 small onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp minced ginger
3-4 bell peppers, chopped
2-3 cups bean sprouts, washed
2-3 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 cups rice (and lentils, optionally), day-old if possible
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
Sesame oil, tamari, black bean sauce, other sauces to taste
In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, green onions, garlic and ginger, and cook until garlic and ginger just barely start to brown. Add bell peppers and cook, then bean sprouts and broccoli. Cook to your preference in texture. If only making one serving at the moment, remove and store the appropriate proportion of vegetables (approximately 3/4, possibly more).
Add 3/4 cup to 1 cup rice or mixed rice and lentils per serving to the pan and cook at least until heated through. Ideally, rice should start to get slightly crispy. At any sign of sticking, add a bit more oil.
Make a small well in middle of rice. Crack 1 egg per serving and add to well (if making more than one serving, I recommend scrambling them first in a separate bowl). Let sit for 1 minute, then scramble into rice, stirring frequently to avoid sticking.
Move into bowl(s), drizzle with sesame oil, tamari, and any other desired seasonings and serve.