LIVING WELL: Fresh veggies make for good stir-fry
by Cecelia Hostilo, Columnist
May 29, 2013 | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the fresh vegetables available to us this time of year, you may be looking for a cooking method that is quick and easy, saves on calories, and preserves nutrient content. Stir-frying may be what you are looking for! It is probably the most popular of all Oriental cooking methods. Stir-frying is the brisk cooking of small cuts of ingredients in oil over intense heat. The key is to keep the food moving constantly, so all parts of the food come in contact with the hottest part of the pan, cooking quickly and evenly.

You can stir-fry in a few tablespoons or in a cup of oil. Stir-frying refers to the action, not to the amount of oil. Many recipes call for sesame or peanut oil, but you can also use canola oil. Olive oil, butter, and margarine are not suitable for stir-fry cookery because of their low smoke point. The smoke point of oil is the temperature when a fat breaks down, giving off smoke and producing a greasy taste and aroma. It is important to heat the oil to a high temperature, but the oil should not be smoking. The high heat allows the vegetables to remain tender and crisp and retain their color.

Ingredients should also be stir-fried in the appropriate order. Vegetables that take a while to cook, such as carrots or celery should be added before quick cooking vegetables, such as mushrooms or tomatoes. In this manner all vegetables will be done at the same time. Have all ingredients prepared and within reach before you heat the oil as you will not have time to cut and chop after you begin stir-frying. Vegetables and other ingredients should be as uniform as possible in shape and size for even cooking.

Adding a cornstarch paste at the end of cooking will transform any liquid into a delicious sauce. The paste should be made with cold ingredients. When the paste is added to a hot mixture, it will thicken almost immediately. After one to two minutes of stirring over heat, do not expect the mixture to thicken further.

The wok is the traditional utensil for stir-frying. The most efficient wok is made of steel. It is about 14 inches in diameter and has a slightly flat bottom so it can be used on either an electric or gas stove. Electric woks are available with temperature controls that fit into a moveable base.

A new wok must be seasoned before use. Fill the wok 2/3 full of water and bring the water to a

boil. Boil for 7 to 8 minutes. Let the wok cool. Remove the water and wash thoroughly with hot

water and a mild detergent. Rinse and dry. Rub the inside of the wok with 2 tablespoons of

vegetable oil. Place on high heat and tilt the wok from side to side to distribute the oil all over the pan. After 5 to 6 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the wok to cool. Wipe the excess oil from the cooled wok with a paper towel. Your wok is now seasoned and ready for use.

You can enjoy the fun of preparing Oriental foods even if you do not own a wok. Any recipe that can be cooked in a wok can also be prepared in a large heavy skillet with deep sides or in an electric skillet. Simply make sure to keep the food moving constantly so all ingredients are cooked quickly and evenly. A wok spatula which has a long handle comes in handy for tossing, mixing and stirring food in a wok. It is shaped to scoop and lift food from the sides and bottom of the wok.

Stir-fry cookery has several advantages over other cooking methods.

When small amounts of oil are used to stir-fry, less fat and fewer calories are added than when deep-fat frying.

Canned low sodium chicken broth can be used as the basis for the stir-fry sauce offering more calorie and sodium savings.

Vegetables retain more vitamins and minerals during stir-frying than during boiling, where water-soluble vitamins can be lost.

Reduce waste by using small amounts of fresh vegetables from the refrigerator.

Because stir-frying is a quick method, it can save time.

Clean-up time is shortened since the entire meal is prepared in one pan.

The use of a wide variety of vegetables allows for smaller amounts of meat, poultry or seafood, offering grocery savings.

Many supermarkets carry fresh Chinese ingredients, such as Chinese cabbage, ginger root, bean sprouts and cilantro; canned ingredients such as water chestnuts and sliced bamboo; and in the gourmet section you may discover soy sauce, noodles, rice wine or rice wine vinegar and various spices and flavorings.

Soy sauce is a common seasoning in many stir-fry recipes. Soy sauce is a combination of soy beans, flour, salt and water. Because of its saltiness you do not have to add extra salt to the recipe. Low sodium soy sauce is available. Keep opened bottles of soy sauce tightly closed and refrigerated to help retain flavor.

Ginger root is a gnarled root which adds a distinctive spicy flavor to many Chinese dishes.

It can be purchased fresh in some groceries but powdered ginger, though not as flavorful, can be substituted 1⁄2 teaspoon powdered for 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger or for 2 slices fresh ginger.

So gather your food ingredients and cooking equipment and delve into the mystique of stir-frying. With a little practice, all the advantages of stir-fry cookery can be yours!

For more information contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269. Information for the article was obtained from a publication by the same name written by Sandra Bastin, PhD, RD, LD, CCE, UK Cooperative Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist, June 2007.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

Fried Rice

1 teaspoon oil

1 egg, beaten

1⁄2 cup green peas

1⁄4 cup diced green onion

4 cups cooked white rice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Heat oil. Add egg; scramble loosely. Add remaining ingredients and stir-fry until all ingredients are heated. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Facts per Serving: 211 calories; 2 g fat; 35 mg cholesterol; 2 g fiber; 369 mg sodium

Zucchini and Tomato Parmesan

1 teaspoon cooking oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1⁄4-inch thick (21⁄2 cups)

4 green onions, bias-sliced into 1-inch lengths (3⁄4 cup)

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped (1 cup)

1⁄4 cup snipped parsley

1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat wok or large skillet; add cooking oil. Stir-fry garlic in hot oil for 15 seconds. Add

zucchini; stir-fry for 11⁄2 minutes. Add green onions; stir-fry about 11⁄2 minutes or until

vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in tomatoes and parsley. Cover and cook about 1 minute or until heated through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; toss gently. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 46 calories; 2 g fat; 3 mg cholesterol; 1.4 g fiber; 85 mg sodium

Sesame Broccoli Stir-Fry

vegetable cooking spray

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

8 cups chopped fresh broccoli

1 large sweet pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips

1 medium onion, cut into wedges

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons beef broth

11⁄2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

11⁄2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon peeled, minced gingerroot

4 drops hot sauce

1⁄4 cup sliced water chestnuts

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Coat a wok or large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; add oil. Place over medium-high heat (375°F) until hot. Add broccoli, sweet red pepper, onion and garlic; stir-fry 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Combine brown sugar and next 6 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well; add to vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. Add water chestnuts and sesame seeds. Cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly heated. Serve immediately. Makes 12 servings.

Nutrition Facts per Serving: 45 calories; 2 g fat; 2 g fiber; 296 mg sodium
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