Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stir-Fried Cabbage and Mushrooms

In cooking, I generally do not like the term "secret ingredient".  Yes, it conjures up homey images of a grandparent's special spice or seasoning that makes their signature dish (my grandmother's secret is vodka in her pie crusts), but often it is a term used to describe one item that can cover all matters of sins to achieve something worth eating.  I believe that a dish relies on the quality and care of all its ingredients, that one fantastic one cannot make up for the whole.  I also believe that you should never not make a recipe just because you are missing one ingredient; searching for a replacement often leads to creativity and improvisation.

That being said, if there is one ingredient that can transform even the most humble of dishes, it's sesame oil.  Dark and nutty, with a potent toasted flavor, all you need is a teaspoon or two in a stir fry to achieve vegetable heaven.

We've been eating a lot of cabbage around here, so it was the next logical thing to try out in the wok.  I cut up a few mushrooms (more would have been better) and half of a head of cabbage.  I heated up some canola oil with a minced clove of garlic and added the mushrooms.  After 3 minutes, I threw in the cabbage along with about 2 tsp. of soy sauce, 1 tsp. of sesame oil, 1 tsp. sherry vinegar, and a few shakes of red pepper flakes (I like things spicy, so I added about 1/2 tsp. or more).  I cooked it for another 5 minutes until the cabbage began to wilt.

The three of us ate it with stir-fried chicken and brown rice, with a little more sesame seed oil and soy sauce dribbled on top.  Not the most summery of dishes, but well worth turning on the stove in the 90 degree heat.

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