When stir-fries are your most frequent go-to quick dinner, the results can get boring. For a change, I have composed this summery combination. To keep it bright, it combines a lavish amount of vegetables. To make it comfortably substantial, it includes a modest amount of beef. For flavor variety, I skip soy sauce, instead using sesame and lots of ginger, a perfect seasoning combination for warm weather.
High heat, movement and speed are keys to making a superior stir-fry. High heat seals the surface of the stir-fry’s ingredients quickly, keeping them moist and succulent. So does keeping the food moving by tossing it around in the pan. Shaking the pan with one hand while using a spatula in the other hand to toss the food encourages even quicker cooking. This also helps the liquids you add to evaporate and concentrate into an intense, flavorful sauce.
A steel wok is ideal for stir-frying because of its thin metal and curved surface. The steel heats up rapidly and intensely. The bowl shape gives lots of surface so the contents sear most quickly, and it provides plenty of room so you can toss the food around easily. In addition, the generous surface helps liquids evaporate more rapidly.
If you use a skillet, as most cooks do, try to select one that is large, shallow and lightweight. This works best because the size makes room for movement while shallow sides encourage evaporation. Less weight helps you keep the pan moving. It also may let the pan become hotter than one made of heavier material like enameled metal. But even using a skillet, where the result may be more moist, your stir-fry will be delicious.
Take time to cut all the ingredients into similar bite-size pieces. Partial freezing makes this easy for the meat. If using the pre-cut meat sold for stir-fries, skip this step but cut into smaller pieces, if necessary, to match the size of other ingredients. Think of the peanut oil for flavor as well as cooking. I choose peanut oil for both its richness and high smoke point. (To avoid nut allergies, grape seed oil is good.) Finally, roasted sesame oil is for flavor and finishing, so add it after cooking.
Matchstick Ginger Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry
- 8 oz. lean beef, such as bottom round or flank steak
- 6 tsp. peanut oil, divided
- 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1/3 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
- 2 large shallots, thinly sliced, 1/2 cup
- 4 medium asparagus stalks, stems trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 large bok choy ribs, mainly white part cut into 1/2-inch slices, about 1½-2 cups
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 oz. large snow peas (about 1 cup), halved lengthwise
- 1 tsp. roasted sesame oil
- 2 cups cooked brown rice, preferably short grain
Wrap beef in plastic wrap and partially freeze before crystals form, 45-60 minutes. Cut beef with the grain into 1/4-inch by 2-inch pieces. Stacking 2-3 pieces at a time, cut meat lengthwise into thin 1/4-inch strips. In small bowl, mix beef with 1 teaspoon peanut oil and set aside.
Heat small cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame seeds and toast, shaking pan until seeds are fragrant and lightly colored, 2 minutes. Immediately transfer sesame seeds to plate and set aside to cool.
In small bowl, combine broth, vinegar, sugar and salt, and set aside.
Set wok over highest heat. When water drops flicked into wok bounce and dance, drizzle 2 teaspoons peanut oil around top of wok, lifting and tilting to coat wok with oil. Add beef, spread meat quickly into even layer, then stir-fry until pieces show no red color, 1-2 minutes. Transfer beef to bowl and set aside.
Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into wok. Add ginger and shallots, stir-frying until ginger is fragrant, 30 seconds. Add asparagus, bok choy and red peppers and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add snow peas and toss to coat with oil. Return beef to wok. Pour in broth mixture and stir-fry until beef is cooked through, 1 minute. Off heat, drizzle on sesame oil. Transfer stir-fry to serving bowl, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve immediately, accompanied by rice.
Makes 4 servings.
Per serving: 330 calories, 14 g total fat, (3 g saturated fat), 33 g carbohydrate, 18 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 400 mg sodium.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.