Cooking Ahead

We were browsing through cookbooks the other evening before going to sleep. Charla saw a stir-fry recipe she liked and asked Kurt, "Can you make this for me?"

Kurt took a quick look at the long list of ingredients and immediately began to make excuses for not becoming involved in this recipe. But then he looked a bit longer and realized that most of the ingredients on the half-page long list were for the sauce.

We have learned to keep a few sauces in the freezer for quick stir-fries, marinades and salads. These sauces are especially helpful when unexpected guests arrive near mealtime.

Of course, being Cooking Ahead folks, we always have a supply of meat, beans and mixed frozen vegetables that can be put together with the pre-prepared sauce for a quick meal.

One caution, be sure that the ingredients of your sauce lend themselves to freezing. You do not want to freeze sauces with heavy cream or sour cream in them because they tend to separate. However, you could put together all the ingredients except the cream and add it in the final preparation.

Also we have discovered it is easy to create a variety of stir-fry sauces from a basic base sauce (recipe follows). We make this base ahead and freeze it. When we want a citrus sauce, we add the juice and zest of oranges and lemons. If we are looking for a spicy stir-fry, we add some freshly grated ginger and a bit of wasabi or horseradish.

When we decide on an easy (though not too authentic) Thai dish, we add some fish sauce and coconut milk.

Using homemade stir-fry sauce is also significantly less expensive than buying bottled sauces.

Another of our favorite on hand sauces is a basic honey fruit salad sauce. We find ourselves pulling this out of the freezer anytime we need to use fruit ripening on the shelf or find a great bargain at the farmer's market.

Citrus and Honey Fruit Dressing

  • 1/3 cup fresh citrus juice (lime is wonderful)
  • 6 tablespoons crushed pineapple with juice
  • 3/4 cup honey

Combine ingredients in food processor or blender. Process until well blended. A pinch of salt can also be added. Use immediately or freeze or later use. Any combination of fresh fruits may be used with this dressing. Suggestions include: peaches, melons, bananas, berries and grapes.

Basic Stir-Fry Sauce Base

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons dry sherry or orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Combine cornstarch and water in a jar with screw top lid. Shake until thoroughly combined. Put remaining ingredients into jar and shake again. You may add additional ingredients or replace liquids with other liquids of your choice.