Land of Leftovers

In these early days of spring, thoughts of food rush to the freshest ingredients, brightly colored meals and options that won't keep you in the kitchen for hours. These are stir-fry days!

Stir-frying offers a cook the option of using fresh or frozen ingredients and lots of wonderful seasoning blends. It's not unusual for one meal to call for sweet sherry, robust sesame oil, salty soy sauce, tangy rice vinegar and spicy red chili paste. The Oriental method of stir-frying embraces the blending of flavors that Western minds have often regarded as at odds. However, few can deny that when these flavors are brought together in a high temperature wok with the right blend of veggies, meat and tofu they add up to shear bliss.

Some things are essential for making great stir-fries. Here are a few oriental essentials that I am never without in my kitchen:

  • dark sesame oil
  • mango chutney
  • soy/teriyaki sauce
  • sesame seeds
  • red chili paste
  • dried whole Japanese chili peppers
  • Chinese five spice blend
  • fresh ginger
  • crushed red pepper
  • sherry
  • rice vinegar
  • canned water chestnuts
  • fresh garlic
  • brown/white/wild rice

With some of these treats in your pantry, spice cabinet and refrigerator, your next stir-fry is only a creative splash of inspiration away!

Leftovers lend themselves well to stir-fry dishes. The lightly steamed broccoli from last weekend's fondue party finds itself at home with a sweet and spicy pork combination. Thinly sliced steak from your last late-night barbeque can compliment a combination of pepper strips and sesame seeds. Cocktail shrimp from the appetizer spread you had before a trip to the theatre can be reincarnated as a Sichuan-style dish that will make your mouth sing. It's all up to you.

Just about anything can end up in a stir-fry dish if you plan carefully. Some of the combinations that have found their ways to my table include:

  • Country ribs cubed and stir-fried with snap peas, chopped onion and strips of red pepper covered in a smoky red pepper sauce
  • Strips of grilled chicken stir-fried with broccoli florets, dried red peppers and sliced green onions in a citrus sauce
  • Shredded pork roast stir-fried with frozen peas, strips of carrot and multi-colored chopped pepper in a soy-mustard sauce

When it comes down to it, the rules are simple: Pick your favorite foods and cook them quickly in a wok or deep skillet and add the sauce/seasonings of your choice. You can serve your masterpiece over rice or on its own. The more you include stir-fry dishes in your repertoire of dinner options, the more you will find that it's okay to add some leftover chicken or artichoke hearts (!) to the mix.

To get you started on the road to incorporating leftovers into your stir-fry menus, I'm including three of my favorite stir-fry recipes. Feel free to use leftovers when possible, but they are all also great when made "from scratch".

From my kitchen to yours, enjoy!

Pork and Broccoli Stir-Fry

This recipe suggests using leftover pork tenderloin and lightly steamed broccoli from a previous meal. You can make it with fresh ingredients as well by stir-frying the pork for 3 minutes instead of 1 minute and stir-frying the entire dish for 5 minutes after adding the broccoli and before adding the chutney, bean sprouts, garlic and water chestnuts.
  • 1/3 c. mango chutney
  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 1 T. sherry
  • 2 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 1 lb. cooked pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 4 c. lightly steamed broccoli florets
  • 2 c. fresh bean sprouts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (8 oz.) can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork; stir-fry for 1 minute (3 minutes if using raw pork). Add broccoli and stir-fry an additional minute (5 minutes if using raw broccoli). Add the chutney mixture, bean sprouts, garlic and water chestnuts; stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes. Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes using leftovers, 20 minutes using raw ingredients

Tri-Colored Peppery Beef

The best way to boost the flavor of this dish is to use leftover grilled steak for a smoky taste. You can make it with fresh ingredients as well by preparing the beef with a spice rub (try a Chinese five-spice powder), slicing it into thin strips and stir-frying the beef for 4 minutes instead of 1 minute.
  • 1 T. dark sesame oil
  • 2 T. minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. grilled flank steak, cut into thin strips
  • 1 1/2 c. red bell pepper strips
  • 1 1/2 c. yellow bell pepper strips
  • 1 1/2 c. green bell pepper strips
  • 1/2 c. beef broth
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • 4 c. thinly sliced bok choy
  • 1 T. sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic; stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the beef and stir-fry 1 minute (4 minutes if using raw beef). Add bell peppers and stir-fry 2 additional minutes. Mix the beef broth, soy sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add to the beef mixture along with the bok choy. Stir-fry for an additional 1 minute or until the bok choy wilts and the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame seeds and salt. Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes using leftovers, 20 minutes using raw ingredients

Spicy Asian Shrimp

If you want to use raw broccoli and shrimp in this recipe, stir-fry both the broccoli and the shrimp for 4 minutes instead of 1 minute.
  • 2 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 4 c. lightly steamed broccoli florets
  • 2 lbs. peeled, deveined and cooked shrimp
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c. ketchup
  • 1 T. red chili paste (look for it in a bottle in the Asian section of your grocery store)
  • 1 (8 oz.) can sliced water chestnuts, drained

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli; stir-fry for 1 minute (4 minutes if using raw broccoli). Add the shrimp and garlic; stir-fry 1 minute (4 minutes if using raw shrimp). Mix sugar, vinegar, ketchup and chili paste in a small bowl. Add to the shrimp mixture along with the water chestnuts. Stir-fry for an additional 1 minute. Serve hot over cooked brown rice.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes using leftovers, 20 minutes using raw ingredients

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.