Fried Rice with Everything
Cooking for one, you learn to improvise, lower expectations, and cobble together meals out of seemingly nothing. One common, can’t-fail vehicle for this is fried rice: with bits of everything that’s available. Normally, these would be scraps and leftovers — the dish is best made with leftover rice, first of all — like shreds of last night’s roast pork, and chopped, peeled pieces of broccoli stalks. Scrambled eggs are always present, to add protein credibility to the dish, and chopped scallions are tossed in at the end to freshen it up, if deceptively so. But what happens when your “scraps” are actually just-harvested vegetables from the garden, the only ones that were ripe? Then you have a fried rice with bits of everything that’s awesome, and a random assortment of them, at that.
One of the challenging — but fun — aspects about cooking from a garden is working within the constraints of what’s ripe, when. When you shop at markets and grocery stores, you typically buy a whole bunch of chard, a pint of blueberries, or a pound of string beans. When you’re harvesting from a garden, on any day you might have one eggplant, two juicy tomatoes, one cucumber, and so on. It can be a head-scratcher to come up with something cohesive to make with the lot, without succumbing to buying more produce to fill in the gaps.
Luckily, everything that comes out of the garden is so tasty and fresh, it kind of makes up for any odd pairings. And, there are a few can’t-fail recipes for them. Beyond soups, I can’t think of too many other dishes that take such a wide variety of ingredients so well: anything goes with a batch of fried rice. And it’s quicker than simmering, anyhow.
I can’t say how many times I fell back on this routine when not eating out for two years — three nights a week? I’d put on a pot of rice, grab around for vegetables in the fridge, or just a handful of frozen peas. Scramble an egg, stir-fry the veggies, and add the rice once it was cooked. Seasonings and sauces went in, and, if there were any, scallions or some other green allium that would pass. Sometimes, carrots and celery were the focal point of the dish, left over from mirepoix or stock. I do not miss that version terribly much. But I may have to make the version that was lunch at Sixpoint last week, with a colorful assortment of peppers, string beans and greens.
So take this recipe as reference only, and substitute with any vegetables — or leftover meat or seafood — that you’ve got. Surprise yourself by making the best combo, one born by chance or the changing seasons. Any type of rice will do just fine, too. It’s a great way to use up leftover rice, because its dryness will pan-fry better. Just don’t cook your rice too moist if doing it on the spot; and don’t forget to add the scrambled eggs, a crucial ingredient in my opinion.
Fried Rice with Everything (or Anything)
(makes 4-5 servings)
3 cups cooked rice
1 medium sweet pepper, such as bell, seeded and chopped
1 medium hot pepper, such as jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
about 1 cup leafy greens (such as kale, cabbage or Swiss chard), chopped
about 1 cup string beans (or substitute peas or snow peas), chopped
3 scallions (or substitute shallots), both white and green parts chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Beat eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Heat a wide, heavy-bottomed pan, preferably nonstick with about 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high. Add the eggs and scramble until just cooked. Remove and set aside in a bowl. Add a little more oil and all the vegetables except for the scallions (or if using shallots, the green tops). Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, about 1-2 minutes or until just browned in parts. Add a splash of soy sauce and stir. Add all the cooked rice and return the eggs to the pan. Stir while cooking, seasoning generously with salt, pepper and splashes of soy sauce. Once it’s to taste, add the scallions (or shallot greens) and serve.