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Here we are at the start of another summer, and the produce is rolling in at the Market. The temperatures are rising and you are spending more time on outdoor activities with the sun going down late in the evening. What could be more brilliant for a quick, healthy, easy supper than stir-frying?

You can do your prep work ahead of time, throw it in a large skillet on the stove (no heating up the oven), or even outside on your grill’s side burner or on the grill itself! A stir-fry cooks super quick and you can use whatever you find at the Market that week. Prep your ingredients and refrigerate as soon as you get home and your weeknight supper will get to the table even faster!  

Everyday Stir-Frying — Market Style

Condensed and adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated article by Elizabeth Bomze

Protein: Use ¾-1 lb. of protein. Beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp are ideal because they soften quickly. Tofu is a great vegetarian/vegan substitute. Chill meat before slicing to make it easier.  Chicken and steak go in the freezer for 20-30 minutes; pork tenderloin for 30-45 minutes. If already frozen, just partially thaw. (Or leave out the meat and increase the vegetables for a vegetarian/vegan stir-fry.)

Vegetables: Anything you like and in season is fair game. Just keep in mind that there are different cooking times for different items. Cut your vegetables down to ¾ inch size for quick cooking. Slices of carrots or broccoli stems can be ¼ inch size. Slicing on the diagonal makes an attractive dish.

  • Long Cooking (3-7 minutes): broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, snap peas
  • Medium Cooking (1-3 minutes): asparagus, bell pepper, bok choy stalks, eggplant, mushrooms, onions, scallion whites, snow peas
  • Fast Cooking (30-60 seconds): bean sprouts, bok choy greens, celery, shelled peas, Napa cabbage, scallion greens, tender greens, tomatoes

Marinating: Before marinating, protect chicken and pork with a soak in a baking soda solution (1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons water) for 15 minutes, then rinse. This helps them stay juicy. Chicken, pork, and beef should be marinated in salty liquid (2 tablespoons soy or fish sauce) for 15 minutes. Shrimp will be overwhelmed by salty marinade, so use an oil mixture (3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 6 cloves minced garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt for 30 minutes).

Five Easy Steps:

  1. Heat Oil: Use 1 ½ teasoons of oil in skillet over high heat until just smoking. Peanut, vegetable, and canola oils are best for neutral flavor and higher burning temperature. Add more oil each time you add food to the pan and if it burns, wipe it out and start again with fresh oil.
  2. Sear Protein: Cook marinated protein in batches until well-browned. Then transfer to a bowl. If using shrimp, don’t sear. Add them to the pan after searing the vegetables and aromatics and cook over medium-low heat.
  3. Sear Vegetables: Cook vegetables sequentially starting with longer cooking items. Dry rinsed vegetables to prevent them from steaming. Dry leafy vegetables in a salad spinner.
  4. Add Aromatics: Clear the center of the pan and add 3 minced garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon grated ginger mixed with 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Mash until fragrant, 15-30 seconds and stir into vegetables.
  5. Combine and Add Sauce: Return protein to the pan. Whisk sauce and add to skillet. Toss until liquid is thickened, about 30 seconds.

Five Things You DON”T Want to Do:

  • Don’t Use a Wok – A large 12-inch nonstick skillet works better on flat Western burners.
  • Don’t Crowd the Pan – If you add all the ingredients at once, food will steam rather than sear. Cook in batches leaving space for meat to brown well.
  • Don’t Add Aromatics Too Soon – Add ginger and garlic after protein and vegetables are cooked to prevent them from scorching.
  • Don’t Stir Too Much – Stirring too frequently prevents proper browning.
  • Don’t Cook Fully (When Searing) – Remove meat and vegetables before they are done so they won’t overcook when added back with the sauce.

Classic Stir-Fry Sauce

Combine ½ cup chicken broth, ¼ cup dry sherry, 3 tablespoons hoisin or oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil.

Now that you know how, you can get creative with anything you find at the Market in season! Experiment with different combinations and find out what you like best. Then let us know about it here on our blog! We’d love to hear from you!

(photos from Everyday Food, Martha Stewart Living, and Body & Soul)