“Fried” is kind of a bad word in my family. We – my brothers, sister-in-law, parents, and husband – are a pretty healthy bunch. We all like to eat, some of us more than others, but we also like to fit into our clothes and we are all fairly health conscious. That doesn’t mean that dietarily we are at a spa all the time. There is plenty of time for Thai food, rich dips, the occasional chocolate cake. Cookies and ice cream too. But I think fried food is where most of us draw the line. That and cream sauces. I can’t enjoy something if I know it has been dredged in egg, then breadcrumbs, and then fried in cups of oil. French fries are my very favorite thing on earth but I almost never eat them and if I do, it’s just a few. Because I rarely eat fried food (or cream sauces), when I do, I almost always end up feeling sick. So if I see “fried” on a menu, I usually pass it by.
I recently made fried rice and when I told Randy I was doing so, he scrunched up his nose. I’ve been cooking for 20 years (!) and I think this was the second time in my life that I made fried rice. I have childhood memories of sitting in our suburban Chinese restaurant digging through the pork fried rice for the succulent bits of pork (yes! I ate pork!), ignoring the peas, and allowing the cooked egg and slippery grains of rice to slide down my throat. Pork Fried Rice was a staple on that table. As soon as I stopped eating meat, I never ordered it again.
I am here to tell you. Fried rice is not fried. At least, not the way I make it. It is sautéed and, unless you are a raw foodist, most things you eat are sautéed. This is what I told Randy and as soon as I said it, I realized it was completely true and that I had been passing recipes for fried rice by because of that pesky “fried” word. In other words, I have been seriously missing out.
Now you can make fried rice lots of different ways and it is great for those little bits and bobs of produce that you have left over in your refrigerator after a week of cooking. I’m giving you this recipe because a) it is what got me back on the road to fried rice, b) it is delightfully satisfying and yet healthy, and c) it features an intriguing sauce that makes an already nice dish extra tasty, and which you will want to put on just about anything.
One Year Ago: Roasted Banana Muffins, Spinach, Cheddar, and Egg Casserole
Two Years Ago: Linzer Tart, Yeasted Coffee Cake
Three Years Ago: Bruce and Dana’s Pasta Sauce
Four Years Ago: Curried Red Lentil Stew with Vegetables
Cashew Fried Rice
Adapted from Vegetarian
Serves about 4
The amounts I have listed here are a little loose. The book has metric measurements and rather than explicitly translate them, I just kind of winged it. And then I didn’t write down what I did. If you have a little more or a little less rice, or a little more or a little less vegetables, all will work out fine. You can really use whatever vegetables you like or have in your crisper drawer. The main thing is that you want to use cold rice. Warm rice, or even room temperature, will make your dish a big ball of mush. Just make a bunch extra the next time you serve rice.
½ cup raw unsalted cashews
1 handful green beans, tipped and tailed, cut into 1″ pieces
1 handful snap peas, de-stringed, cut in half
¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece of peeled ginger, minced
About 4 cups cooked cold rice (I used basmati)
1-2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
Green sprouts of any kind, for garnish (optional)
Chile Tomato Jam (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place the cashews on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until they are fragrant and just a shade darker, about 5 minutes. I always do this in my toaster oven and you can also do it on the stove in a dry pan if you don’t want to heat up the oven. Just watch them very carefully!
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water nearby. Drop in the string beans and snap peas and cook for 2 minutes. Immediately scoop them into the ice water. Once they are cool, drain and pat dry.
Heat a large skillet or a wok over medium heat. Drizzle in just enough canola oil to coat the bottom. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute, then add the cold rice and the vegetables. Stir fry for a good 2 minutes to heat through. Push everything to the side of the pan and tip in the egg and sesame oil, stirring occasionally to form a sort of omelet. Break the omelet into pieces with a spatula and mix it into the rice, then add the toasted cashews. Season with soy sauce and serve topped with sprouts, if desired, and the chile tomato jam on the side.
Chile Tomato Jam
10 mild fresh red chiles, seeds and membranes removed
2 shallots, roughly chopped
2-inch piece of peeled ginger, roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, touch outer stalks removed, roughly chopped
½ pound cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
4 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
Place the chiles in a food processor with the shallots, ginger, and lemongrass. Pulse, scraping down the sides every few seconds, until finely chopped. Scrape into a saucepan with the tomatoes and sugar, and cook over a medium-high heat for about 20 minutes. Stir often until the liquid evaporates and the sugar caramelizes. Add the vinegar and soy sauce and simmer until the liquid evaporates. Season with salt to taste. Allow to cool completely. Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week or more.