Wokking and Walking in 2012

New Year's Stir Fry

My wok will be 2 years old in April. I am pathetically keeping track, since 2 years is supposed to be the time when an often-used wok is finally seasoned perfectly. Sometimes I get it out, set it on the cooktop, and just look at it. It's getting so wondefully burnished and banged up. And, more importantly, absolutely nothing is sticking to its surface. 

I talked here about wok love and about Grace Young's book, The Breath of a Wok. What I'd add this time around is the following:

  • If I'm making an Asian stir fry, I use vegetable or peanut oil. More and more, though, I'm using olive oil and getting very far away from traditional Asian combinations. The "recipe" here is an example.
  • I've gotten discouraged a couple times when, just when my wok seemed to be developing the longed-for patina, it all disappeared because of enthusiastic vinegar use, wok cooking naiveté, or other mysterious reasons. My admonishment is Keep Going! The only way to really wreck a wok (say that 5 times fast) is to let it get rusty with standing water or to not use it. Continued use, even if it takes you 5 years, will pay off.
  • It's really hard to experience what I'm talking about here if you have an electric cooktop. Woks need raging heat. 

And, wok cooking is a fabulous way to eat more vegetables in one sitting than you ever thought possible. The stir fry here is 80% cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts, with just a handful of cold brown rice thrown in at the end. That description sounds depressing, but it was DELICIOUS. And made my fiber and Vitamin A off-the-charts that day.

I'm starting out the new year realizing I've spend most my energy the past six months caring for others, and not enough caring for myself. Sound familiar, anyone? When I do that, carbs (empty ones, of course) somehow taste so good, show up everywhere, and supplant the vegetables my body really wants. I'm trying to change that, and trying again to move as much as possible, even if it's not the 60 minute workout I want. Wokking and Walking. You'll hear more about it in April, I'm sure, when I throw a little birthday party for the blasted thing.

New Year's Stir Fry
Serves 2. (If you want to serve 4 as a meal, you'll have to do this twice, since an over-filled wok just steams everything.) Thinly slice 1/4 head of green cabbage, a few cups of washed kale leaves (stems removed), and a couple handfuls of washed brussel sprouts. Mince 2 cloves of garlic, thinly slice 2 red Fresno peppers (red Jalapenos), and see if there are any stray bits of meat in your fridge. You can use ham, cooked or uncooked chopped bacon, proscuitto, etc. This is optional, but yummy. Heat your wok over high heat for about 15 seconds, then pour 2 Tb. olive oil in. Add garlic, stir, then add veggies. Fry over high heat for about 4 minutes, moving everything around quite a bit, and add kosher salt to taste. When everything's getting crispy/tender, add 2 handfuls of COLD cooked brown rice (or white rice or bulgar or quinoa or barley), fry for another minutes, then add 1 Tb. of white wine vinegar and fry for another minute. Dump everything into 2 bowls and top with some crumbled feta, if you like. Or a fried egg.

Blistered Brussel Sprouts

blistered brussel sprouts

I married a man whose second love (I'm the first, of course) is brussel sprouts. Nothing makes him happier than when I haul home a big old stalk, and nothing makes him more sad than when they don't turn out perfectly.

A few weeks ago, I tried parboiling and then stir-frying them in my precious wok, planning to blog about my brilliant success. Notice that post never showed up. But these are another story. We talked about them all night long. After you've been married for 15 years, I guess it doesn't take much to light things up.

They really do blister--you will probably think you've done something wrong, but don't worry. Brussel sprouts never won any beauty contests. They key is to administer tons of salt and olive oil. Much more than you feel comfortable with. All the variegated surface area of these little bulbs will suck the salt and oil right up and render the entire bite perfectly seasoned and tender.

The rain has begun in the Pacific Northwest. Thankfully, we have lots of delicious diversions.

Blistered Brussel Sprouts
Heat oven to 450 and put a sturdy baking sheet in there. Wash 1 pound of brussel sprouts, trim the outer leaves, and halve them. In a medium bowl, toss with 1/4 c. olive oil an 2 tsp. coarse salt. Throw onto the hot baking sheet (they'll sizzle) and check/stir after 10 minutes. You might even want to (gulp) drizzle a little more olive oil at that point. Cook for 8-10 minutes more, until they're blackened and tender all the way through.