While I’ve tried my hand at tofu scrambles before, and I’ve also whipped up stir-fry dishes out the wazoo (where did that expression come from, anyway? If someone can enlighten me, 10 “Whose Line”-style bonus points to you!), I had yet to try my hand at a tofu stir-fry … until earlier this week! Here’s to trying something new, right?
Well … some of us still had questions. Namely, a certain meat-loving someone. 🙂
Well friends, I’m having a party.
Image sourced from Wikimedia.com. Granted, there’s no way my party will be this cool. But hey, a lady can dream.
No, this isn’t a party to relive one of the best comedy films of the nineties. Young Kid and Play got me beat on the cool scale. However, this one should be just as fun, because it’s a birthday party! And you, lovely readers, are invited to join in on the fun.
[Totally irrelevant side note: Found Maria Carey’s entire 1995 “Daydream” album on Youtube this morning. Good Lord, do I love the Interwebs sometimes. I’ll be jamming to “Fantasy” and “One Sweet Day” for the next month or so, just so y’all know. 🙂 ]
For my friends of the Christian and Catholic varieties (or simply for those wondering why a few folks are walking around with dark spots on their foreheads?), today’s observance of Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. While yesterday’s Mardi Gras was an opportunity to binge and go more than a little calorie-crazy (hello, paczkis that I ate en mass. NOM NOM NOM), Lent ushers in a time of penance, prayer and sacrifice. Even if you’re not particularly religious, a re-start on New Years Resolutions probably won’t hurt!
Pop quiz, kiddos: What do you get when you combine broccoli, carrots, onions, celery, chicken, ginger, lime juice, teriyaki, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and chicken broth? (Phew! That was a mouthful … of tasty! … I kill myself.)
Answer: You get the best homemade version of takeout stir-fry you’ve ever made.
With the advent of fall (yup, still excited about it, and will be until winter comes crawling), I always get in the mood for that caramelized, tender-crisp and buttery flavor of roasted vegetables. While fall specifically tends to make me crave root veggies — roasted sweet potatoes, squashes, parsnips and more — the simple technique of roasting veggies is clutch for any budding chef to master.
Here are the simplest steps for successful veggie roasting:
- Cut or trim veggies into semi-uniform pieces (for even cooking time)
- Coat lightly with salt, pepper and olive oil
- Spread veggies onto a baking sheet, and roast at 425 degrees for 10-30 minutes, or until the veggies have caramelized (browned with natural sugars) and are cooked to your liking.
That’s it! The process brings out so much of each veggie’s natural flavor while infusing them with the earthy olive oil and piquant salt & pepper combo. As Adam Roberts, a.k.a. the Amateur Gourmet, says of his take on Ina Garten’s roasted broccoli, “If parents made this broccoli for their kids, kids wouldn’t hate broccoli. They’d beg for it.”
Veg-roasting is also a killer way to stretch a dollar — pick up one sweet potato & one parsnip, slice & prepare as noted above, and boom. You have more than enough food to create a satisfying side dish for two or more, and for minimal cost. In the spirit of Jessie J, I suppose “it’s not about the money, money, money” — but saving a little never hurts!
A few of my favorite roasted veggie options:
- Asparagus with Tomatoes (seen above): Trim asparagus by holding both ends and “bending” the stalks — they’ll naturally break at the proper point. Toss with cherry or diced tomatoes and olive oil, salt & pepper. Roast as noted above for 10-15 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of lemon juice. Mmm!
- Root Veggies: Slice sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga and red onion into steak fry-size pieces. Coat with olive oil and a drizzle of maple syrup (thanks, Gwyneth! Seriously — what would I do without your book?); roast for 30 mins to 1 hour, or until veggies have caramelized and cooked to your liking.
- Broccoli: For a take on Ina’s heavenly broccoli, coat broccoli florets with olive oil, adding salt & pepper to taste. Roast for 20-25 mins with 4 or 5 peeled garlic cloves. After the broccoli florets are done, toss with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and toasted pine nuts. Consume mass quantities, coneheads.
Do y’all roast veggies in fall and winter? What are your favorites? How about some meat-and-veggie parings: Which roasted veggies to you like with your protein? Happy eating!