As much as both Brian and I LOVE to cook, there are still nights when we get home from the office and dread stepping into the kitchen. Sometimes we're lucky enough to have some leftovers floating around in the fridge, other times we resort to ordering steamed veggies and tofu (and maybe some crab wontons, ahem) from the Chinese restaurant down the street. Even though this happens every few weeks, it has been years since I've ordered fried rice. I think I had a few too many disappointments with too-old, slightly crunchy, oddly clumping take-out fried rice in the past, and have stuck with steamed for as long as I can remember. Plus, steamed is healthier, and it makes me feel a little less guilty about the crab wontons I shove in my mouth the minute we close the door behind the delivery boy.
But recently, we discovered how easy it is to make fried rice. And that really, when you make it at home, its not that bad for you. Yes, you throw a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in your pan, but we all know that the right oils in moderation are actually good for you, and when you divide this dish up into four hearty servings you've got nothing to worry about. Add the fact that we used brown rice instead of white and threw in some colorful veggies loaded with vitamins and you've got yourself a healthy alternative to take-out. And I guarantee that you can make it faster than the delivery boy can get the bad stuff to you.
It does help to have some forethought - you want to have rice already made in order to enhance the texture of the dish and cut down on preparation time.
Several Saturdays ago we picked up a couple of beautiful pork chops at the farmer's market from Double H Farm (no website) along with some of their gorgeous eggs. Pork chops on the grill seemed like the perfect accompaniment to the veggie fried rice I'd been thinking about, so I cooked up some brown rice that weekend and one night after work we put this meal together. It was quick, simple and incredibly delicious, not to mention colorful. I briefly thought about healthify-ing the rice even further, by using only egg whites, but when it came time to discard those beautiful orange yolks I just couldn't do it. I'll leave that up to you, if you wish.
The flavor of the pork was very good, I'm just not a big pork chop fan. I ate a few bites and then passed my chop over to Brian, whom I knew would enjoy it far more than I would. For me, the vegetable fried rice was the star of the show.
Vegetable Fried Riceadapted from Gourmet Magazine, via Epicuriousmakes 4 large servings
2 tbsp peanut oil
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped finely
1 red bell pepper, chopped finely
2 tsbp fresh chives or scallions, minced
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups steamed brown rice, cold (ideally, leftover from the night before)
3/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp Asian sesame oil
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet (12") over medium-high heat. Saute' the carrot and bell pepper until tender, then remove to a separate bowl and set aside.
Wipe skillet clean, then heat over high heat, until a drop of water vaporizes instantly upon contact. Add the remaining 1 tbsp peanut oil, swirling to coat pan evenly, and heat until hot and just starting to smoke.
Add eggs, tilting pan and swirling eggs to form a thin, even layer and cook for 30 seconds. Add rice and stir-fry, breaking up eggs and letting rice rest several seconds between stirs, until rice is hot, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the carrots, peppers, chives or scallions, salt and sesame oil to taste, stir-frying until well combined.
Pork Chop Marinadefrom Weber's Big Book of Grilling, by Jamie Purviance and Sandra S. McRaeenough for 4 pork chops, about 1-1/4 inches thick
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Whisk together all of the ingredients.
Place the chops in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal. Turn the bag to distribute the marinade over the pork chops. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
Remove the chops from the bag and discard the marinade. Allow to stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before grilling or baking.
Cook as you wish. We grilled them, over direct high heat for 12-15 minutes. Turn them over halfway through.
We also whipped together a cucumber salad, to help with our abundance. It was nice and refreshing on the side, but you really need to like sesame if you're going to enjoy this salad.
Asian Cucumber Saladfrom Vegetables Every Day, by Jack Bishop
3 medium cucumbers - peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet until golden brown (we left these out, and the sesame flavor was still really strong)
Toss the cucumbers with the salt in a colander. Set the colander in the sink and let the cucumbers sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour, to drain excess liquid.
Whisk the vinegar, oil, sugar and pepper flakes together in a small bowl and set aside, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Thoroughly rinse the cucumber slices under cold, running water and pat dry with paper towels. Toss the cucumbers with the dressing and sesame seeds.