Monday, October 3, 2011

Look what was in the garden!

"I just got back from the garden, and look! We still had some zucchini....", my wife said as she dropped the sack of veggies on the table. By now, I knew that resistance is useless. Zucchini has my name and my address and it's not going to let go.

So, what about stir fry? Fermented black beans and chili along with an incandescent wok should turn the stuff into something at least minimally interesting.

Stir-fried zucchini
First, a note about using a wok. It needs to get hot. Really hot. Flaming afterburner jet exhaust hot. So hot that the wok will turn black all the way to the rim as it seasons. There is only one way to do this at home: buy a chicken or turkey fryer burner that attaches to a propane tank. It's not ideal, since there's no ring for the wok, but you can still hold it upright over the burner and it wont' fall off under normal conditions.  You will need to season your wok if it's new - it basically needs a coating of baked-on oil, just like a cast iron pan.

  • Zucchini, cut diagonally. I peeled strips off the things so they'd look a bit more interesting, but you can't really tell from the photo.
  • Black beans. Available in the Asian foods section of your supermarket. These are fermented soy beans - try to find some with a minimal amount of other ingredients.
  • Garlic, finely chopped
  • Turmeric, fresh grated
  • A hint of celery finely chopped
  • Green onion, diced
  • Chili flakes (I used Aleppo)
  • Soy sauce
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • High-temperature oil

  1. Salt the zucchini and let them sit. This will draw off some moisture, but it will also make them less crispy at the end. Skip this step if you want them crunchier.
  2. Prepare the other ingredients, put them in containers that can be accessed in nanoseconds, because when the wok is hot, that's about all the time you'll have. Garlic with onions, turmeric and celery. Zucchini. Black beans. Soy sauce with vinegar.
  3. Wash the salt off the zucchini and pat dry
  4. Place everything around the wok where it's easy to access.
  5. Light it up. Fwoooosh!
  6. The wok will start to smoke almost instantly. Pour in a bit of oil, and immediately add the garlic and onions. Toss them around a few times. There could be a few small flames coming off the wok. It's normal and they should go out quickly. If they don't lift the wok off the heat and that should take care of them. If there is a huge, smoking column of fire, you put in too much oil.
  7. Add the zucchini. Mix it in with the garlic and onions. Let it sit a bit, toss it, let it sit.
  8. Add the black bean sauce, give it a couple of tosses (or stirs)
  9. Toss in the vinegar/soy mixture, give it a couple of tosses and pull everything off the heat. The whole process should have taken 60-90 seconds.
Slide the food out of the wok into a plate, serve immediately over steamed rice.

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