Sometimes the best way to make the most of fresh produce is to crank up the heat.
Stir-frying is a fast, high-heat sauteing technique that also happens to be healthy. That’s because you can get away with using minimal amounts of oil, while also preserving the flavor, crunch and nutrients of fresh vegetables.
Most stir-fries have only tiny amounts — at least by Western standards — of meat or eggs. This helps keep the dish low in the unhealthy saturated fats often contained in animal products.
This recipe for vegetable, tofu and pork tenderloin stir-fry is a good example. It has a 4-to-1 vegetable-to-meat ratio, and uses tofu for a bit of bulk that readily adopts the other flavors in the dish.
Broccoli, red bell pepper and onion are used here, but you can substitute any vegetables you prefer. For convenience, use a 16-ounce package of fresh vegetable stir-fry mix, which can be found in your grocer’s produce or freezer section.
Pork tenderloin, which is flavorful and lean, also is used in this recipe. A 3-ounce cooked portion contains only 3 grams of fat.
Judicious use of high-flavor, low-fat ingredients such as scallions, garlic, fresh ginger and soy sauce adds complexity. If you like, use other similar flavor boosters such as hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and chili garlic sauce, available in your market’s Asian section.
When cutting or chopping vegetable for stir-frying, make sure your ingredients are all about the same size to ensure even cooking. And always use a wok large enough so they won’t be crowded, which can cause them to steam and get soggy.
Also, make sure all the ingredients are dry before they go into the pan. This will prevent dangerous grease spatters, as well as prevent excess moisture from getting into the pan, another cause of soggy stir-fries.
If you have an electric stove, a flat-bottomed wok is your best bet for getting even contact with the burner. Rounded woks can be used on gas burners, but you’ll probably need a wok ring (sold with most round woks) to steady it over the heat.
No wok? No worry. A large, deep skillet works in a pinch. Avoid nonstick pans, though, as the key to stir-frying is quick, high-heat cooking, which isn’t always friendly to nonstick surfaces.
To make this a more balanced meal, serve the stir-fry on a heap of nutty-flavored brown rice. It takes a bit longer to cook than white rice, but has more fiber and nutrients.
Vegetable, Tofu and Pork Tenderloin
Yield: 6 servings
16-ounces of extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
4 ounces pork tenderloin or boneless pork chop cut into €-inch strips
1/2 cup sliced scallions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 pound broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed, cut in €-inch strips
Drain and rinse the tofu, then dry thoroughly with paper towels. Cut the tofu crosswise into ›-inch slices, then lengthwise into 1-inch strips. Set aside.
Heat the oil until it shimmers in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add the pork and stir-fry until browned on all sides, and no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes. Transfer it to a plate.
Add the tofu to the wok and cook until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.
Add scallions, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute.
Add soy sauce, broccoli, onion, bell pepper and the reserved pork and stir-fry until the vegetables are just tender, about 3 minutes. Serve over rice.