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July 2, 2008

Italian-Style Stir-Fry: All About the Oil


Here is a scenario. You are hungry and in the mood for stir fry. Let us set forth this problem – you do not like Asian cooking. The very presence of soy sauce grates on your last nerve.


We live in such a world where accommodation can be made for this kind of seemingly intractable question. Huzzah!


It would be simple to assume that a good stir fry begins with vegetables and, if your tastes run accordingly, meat. What’s that about assumptions?


A good stir fry begins with the oil. It is the same principle on which aquaculture – the farming of fish – is founded. The environment in which you rear your food will be reflected in how it tastes. Cooking is very much like raising a child. With love, nurturing and attention, your efforts will bear fruit. Laziness toward your food will result in a dish that is more likely to smoke, vandalize local businesses and shake down weaker dishes for money.


A good oil for stir fry starts with something capable of withstanding the heat. A peanut oil is good, as is canola. But we are looking for something different. Because it can now be revealed that we will flavor our stir fry with Italian flavors, you might consider regular olive oil over extra virgin, because it is better at taking heat.


You may wish to consider, ahead of time, flavoring your olive oil with dried herbs and garlic cloves. This will take about a week. The alternative is to mix garlic powder and dried herbs directly into the olive oil as the pan heats.


Because the action of a stir fry is fast and furious, gather your ingredients beforehand. This will give them a chance to mingle and get to know each other. Doing things on the fly is part of a different recipe – how to scorch stuff.


For this, the following are suggested – zucchini, onion, hot peppers, pitted kalamata olives and perhaps eggplant. If available, set aside some fresh basil leaves. Choices abound on the issue of meat.


Is the tomato missing? For good reason. Here is some advice. Pick ones that will release as little fluid as possible. Either slice up some Roma tomatoes, or use whole cherry and grape tomatoes. You will cook them for a short enough period of time that they will soften, but not split (if they do, you have failed . . . turn in your spatula).


When all is gathered, heat first your pan and then add your oil. When the oil has reached a temperature at which it threatens to smoke and explode, add your meat, basil, onion and – if present – eggplant.


At the point to where those are nearly done, add the other vegetables. Toss in the hot oil just long enough for everything to get hot and turn off the heat.


The issue of stir fry comes complete with one final issue – rice. It is possible to choose Italian rice, but we instead dodge the question. Pick instead cooked orzo, which looks like rice but is pasta. With that, you have Italian-ized stir fry. Revel in your accomplishment, you subversive you.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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