The Dish Oriental Style made with fresh ginger root

“The Dish”

I have a favourite lunch or supper that I love to make and to eat. I would happily eat it every single day. It is something I make so frequently that I simply call it “The Dish”.

The Dish began as an Oriental stir-fry, then evolved. Basically, it’s just mixed vegetables served over rice or noodles. You saw a version of it in my previous post about the dollar bag with the zucchini and eggplant in it. I have two staple versions of The Dish: the Oriental version and the Mediterranean version. It can also be adapted to make a Thai version, a Chow Mein version, and so on.

Oriental version:

First start your rice or noodles.
Assemble various vegetables that you have on hand..
Chop/prepare whatever vegetables you are using. Doesn’t have to be all of the examples in this recipe, but you do need the garlic, onion and ginger:

2 to 3 tbsp. cooking oil
1 inch or so of ginger root, peeled and grated
4 or more cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, peeled, halved and sliced diagonally
baby bok choy or similar greens, sliced lengthwise
carrots, peeled. sliced diagonally
sliced mushrooms
broccoli crowns, divided into large pieces of floret
snow peas
green, red, yellow pepper
green onion, chopped
spinach or similar leafy green, coarsely cut up
½ cup frozen peas or pre-steamed fresh ones
whatever else you like

tofu, firm: ½ to 1 block, cubed (if using the medium-firm, brown it first to keep it whole)
toasted almonds, if desired
2 or 3 tbsp. soy sauce or other stir-fry sauce
1 tbsp. corn starch or tapioca starch

Heat a bit of oil in the wok or large frypan on medium high heat.
Toss in ginger and garlic, and wok (sauté).
Add chunky veggies and extra firm tofu. Continue to wok.
Add spinach or leafy greens last.
Mix corn starch or tapioca starch in a bit of water and add to wok. Allow to thicken.
Flavour with soy sauce, vegetarian “oyster” sauce or stir-fry sauce.
Finally, add your pre-fried tofu, if you are using that, and toss to coat with sauce.
Garnish with optional almonds.
Serve over rice or noodles.

Now I have to admit, I just add the cooked, drained noodles right into the mix and serve it that way. My favourite noodle is linguine, but anything goes: penne, rotini, fettucine, whatever. You can also use Chow Mein noodles. If so, leave out the extra water and reduce corn starch to about a half teaspoon, just enough to make it shiny. Bean sprouts are nice in the Chow Mein version.

I also have started just sprinkling the corn/tapioca starch right over this mixture and sautéing it in. Correct with a sprinkle of water, if needed.

Using Dried Chinese Mushrooms

To use the dried Chinese mushrooms successfully, it’s best to start a day or two before. I wash off the dried mushrooms, put them into a 2-cup Tupperware container, and fill it with warm water from the tap. Cover the container and put it into the fridge. Dump out the water each day and add new warm water. This soaks out the aura of sulphur, but it does take a few days to do that. When the mushrooms are soft and unsulphured, cut off the stems, slice them, and use them in The Dish. You add them in the first lot, along with the garlic.

Mediterranean Style “The Dish”
Most veggie combinations will work.
This is the same quick prep idea as the Oriental one, but flavoured without ginger root. Instead you use sun-dried tomato, basil and oregano. If you have basil in the garden, that’s the best, but the dried herb is also very nice.
Basil, oregano and sun-dried tomatoes give this Dish its character.
4 or more cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced diagonally
2 tbsp. sun-dried tomato, chopped
1 to 2 tsp. dried basil, or the chopped leaves from a fresh stalk
1 tsp oregano
Black pepper to taste
½ to 1 small zucchini, sliced or cubed
½ to 1 carrot, peeled, sliced diagonally
sliced mushrooms
½ cup broccoli crowns, divided into large pieces of floret
½ cup eggplant, cubed
green, red, yellow pepper
Swiss chard, spinach or similar greens, coarsely cut up
2 or more tomatoes, cubed
1 tsp. corn starch or tapioca starch
1 cup cooked, drained chick peas or other beans, e.g., Romano
½ packet firm tofu, cubed
Grated cheese or soy cheese for garnich

Heat a bit of oil in the wok or large frypan on medium high heat.
Toss in garlic, onion, sun-dried tomato and herbs. Sauté for few seconds.
Add chunky veggies and optional extra firm tofu. Keep sautéing.
Add spinach or chard.
Add cubed tomatoes last. Allow to cook until tomatoes and eggplant are cooked down. Sauté occasionally.
Mix corn starch or tapioca starch in a bit of water and add to mixture. Sauté and allow to thicken.
Add salt to taste.
Finally, add your optional chick peas and toss to coat with sauce.

At this point, I toss in the drained pasta, preferably linguine or fettuccine, and coat it with the sauce. Or serve separately if you prefer. Garnish with optional grated cheese or soy cheese.

Time and Money Saver Using Beans or Meat

An easy way to use those daunting looking bags of dried beans is to prepare them ahead of time and freeze them in baggies. Just soak a few cups of the beans in water overnight. The next day, discard the soaking water, place the beans in a large saucepan, cover with water and boil them until they are soft but still intact.

Drain the cooked beans and divide them up into freezer baggies. This way, you can use part or all of a baggie full in recipes, or add to stews, pasta sauce etc.
Navy beans: still so warm they're fogging the packets!
Meat eaters can do the same thing with ground beef. I learned this from my sister. She pre-sautés the ground beef, drains and cools it, and divides the “crumbs” into freezer baggies. The family then uses the beef crumbs as a topping or addition to their supper dishes. You can also freeze bits of leftover chicken this way. Remove it from the bones and freeze the small bits in freezer baggies to add flavour and protein to chow mein, soups and stews, and so on. It’s thrifty!