Somewhere in the repertoire of every healthy-minded cook is a stir-fry. You chop up a bunch of veggies, cook them quickly at high heat, add meat or tofu, maybe a flavorful sauce or a sprinkle of chopped cashews or peanuts. Easy, healthy and versatile. And usually Asian in flavor profile.
But one day, I got to wondering: Why not try an unexpected flavor slant, such as Italian, southern French, Greek or Mexican? The plug-and-play skeleton of a typical stir-fry is just begging to be mixed up a bit. I love a cooking blueprint that grants me not just one dinner, but plenty of possibilities. With stir-fries being so healthy, due to their reliance on oodles of veggies, it's a perfect model to expand beyond the tasty Asian box we have it in.
So let's start with a few stir-fry tips. First, always prep your ingredients in advance and have everything right there at the stovetop before you begin. Nowhere is mise en place more important than with a stir-fry.
Second, use high heat. You want to sear the ingredients, and that requires lots of heat. If you are using firmer vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower, and you prefer them softer than a quick roll in the wok will make them, either blanch them briefly as part of your prep or use a quick saute-steam method (as used in the recipe here).
Third, don't crowd your wok (or frying pan), which will lower the temperature and result in a steamed stir-fry (not a good thing). If you don't have a sufficiently large wok, cook the protein in a separate frying pan to get a nice sear, then add to the vegetable skillet at the last minute, along with the sauce. Finally, top the entire thing with something crunchy, such as a few chopped almonds. You won't even need rice.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."