Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tofu, carrot and squash stir-fry

Stir-fry is my default dish, my lazy option, my fallback, my "ah shoot what are we gonna eat tonight" standby. Stir-fry is what I make when I haven't planned far enough ahead, or left myself enough time, or worked up the energy or motivation to put a real effort into dinner.

So stir-fry is something I make a lot, in other words.

But it doesn't mean I make it well. Practice doesn't always make perfect, you know. You were lied to all along.

Or maybe not. Maybe practice does sometimes lead to perfection, because I actually managed to make really good stir-fry! I was excited!

(That's right, eating it straight out of a tupperware container. On dance lesson nights, we really class it up.)

I mean, making stir-fry is simple. Chop stuff up, heat the wok, toss stuff in and stir. Add sauce, cover and steam, then serve over rice. But simple doesn't mean easy, and like many deceptively simple things, there is a definite art to making stir-fry. I think it's actually a pretty even combination of science and art. The science is in the prep work; slicing, dicing and chopping so that the food is all of a consistent size and thickness is very important. The art is in the timing.

Oh, the timing! When to throw in the vegetables so that the protein is browned but not overdone, all the vegetables cooked, but not mushy... how long to let it steam with the sauce, so that everything is flavorful but nothing overdone. I almost never get it perfectly right, but tonight, I think I really almost did!

Of course, that means I totally bollocksed the rice. Crunchy and wet. Mm. Delightful. But it's okay! I'm over it! It keeps me humble! Sure, I thought I had conquered the whole inability-to-make-rice thing months ago, but it's okay! I improvised.

Those noodles that look all cool and asian, maybe like soba noodles or something? Leftover whole-grain spaghetti! That's what I'm talkin' bout!

Anyway, stir fry is an awesome Young Broke and Clueless meal. While it may be very difficult to make really excellent stir-fry, it's quite easy to make decent stir-fry. It's also very quick; not counting the half-hour that the tofu was pressing dry, it took my 40 minutes from 'oh, should I start making dinner?' to stuffing my face. And despite all those books advertising '30-minute meals' and '20-minute meals,' I'm not sure I can cook anything worth eating quite that fast. 40 minutes is pretty good.

Best of all, it's cheap! Tonight's meal used 1/2 a block of tofu ($.50), 1 carrot ($.08), 1/2 an onion ($.07), 1 squash ($.50), 1/4 of a green pepper and 1/4 of a red pepper ($.50 total), 1 egg ($.16), a clove of garlic, a bit of ginger, and a tablespoon or two each of canola oil, soy sauce, and sesame oil. I won't even bother adding the cost of that up. If I'd used rice, like I'd planned to, that would have been 1 cup, and my bag (50 cups) cost twelve bucks (wonder how much it would cost me now...), so that's $.24.

All told? $2.05 for two people, generously. I think my math might even be right!

Long story short? Stir fry is amazing!

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