Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Vegetable "Fried Rice"

Folks, here's a secret.

I'm not crazy about rice. As a kid, I would eat all of the pasta bits out of rice pilaf before touching the actual rice. Risotto? Meh. Not worth the effort. And sure, rice is alright smothered in Palak Paneer... but all in all, it's still a little blah to me.

However, when I'm looking for a quick and easy meal for one (read: every single day), I make a variation on fried rice. It's fast, healthy, and delicious. My trick? I use quinoa! I buy it pre-cooked at my local grocer and use it like I would rice.

If you haven't tried quinoa yet, I highly recommend it. It's got all sorts of nutrients and it tastes pretty much just like rice. If you want, you can buy it in bulk and cook it yourself. Quinoa can be used in all sorts of recipes.

What you'll need:
 - A splash of cooking oil
 - A clove of garlic, minced
 - Red pepper flakes
 - 1 packet of pre-cooked quinoa (approximately 1 and 1/2 cups)
 - 2 eggs
 - Splash of milk
 - Small handful of cheese (any kind will do!)
 - 2 cups of spinach
 - 1 cup of broccoli, cut into manageable pieces

First, always, start by preparing your ingredients. My roommate and I only have one proper knife, but we make it work for whatever needs to be cut. You don't need a fancy set of knives just to cut tomatoes and cucumbers differently. Mince your garlic (if you don't buy it minced), wash your spinach, and cut your broccoli. Scramble your eggs (I always add a splash of milk to mine).

This way, you're not left panicking about chopping up broccoli when your garlic is about to burn! Half of the secret to successful cooking is in the preparation--leave nothing up to chance.

All you need to cook with is a plain skillet. Pour some of your oil in and turn your burner on. For some reason, I have gas burners in my apartment; quite frankly, I'm surprised that's not a safety hazard in a college apartment complex. Turn the heat to medium-high and wait for the oil to get hot.

Once the oil is nice and hot, add your garlic. Only cook it for about a minute or so--garlic will still cook when you add the other vegetables. After cooking it briefly, add some red pepper flakes to taste, then give it all a stir and add your broccoli. Broccoli needs more time to cook than spinach, so it needs to go in first.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli has shrunk a bit in size and is softer when you poke at it (very scientific, I know). It should have a bit of give in it (basically, not raw anymore). At this point, add all of your spinach except for a small handful.

When the spinach is wilted, unwrap your quinoa and pour into the skillet. Give it a good stir and add some more pepper flakes if you're feeling up for an adventure. Wait until the quinoa is heated through, then pour in the egg mixture. At the same time, put the rest of your spinach into the mix.

Cook until the eggs have set. They will sort of disappear into the mixture. All the components at this point will start to stick together.

Once your eggs are no longer raw (everything is white and sticking together nicely), add some cheese. Stir it all up. Add some more cheese if you're feeling adventurous. It should become a nice sticky mix of egg, cheese, quinoa, and vegetables. Keep mixing until it's really fully dispersed. It will smell absolutely awesome.

Just a minute or two after adding your eggs, your vegetables are cooked, the eggs are set, and the cheese is melted. You are ready to plate! Turn your burner off (NEVER forget to do that!) and slide everything onto your plate.

That's it! You've done it! You have made a delicious, nutritious meal in about twenty minutes, start to finish. If you like the taste of adventure, feel free to add some Sriracha to the "fried rice". And, unsurprisingly, you can add whichever vegetables and meat you want to this. Just remember that not all vegetables cook at the same rate!

Once your meal is on your plate, bung all the dirty dishes in the sink and forget about them (for now). Sit down, pat yourself on the back and enjoy your meal. You earned it!

Side note: I love this meal because it combines a lot of components I like by themselves--garlic, vegetables, a bit of a kick, eggs, and cheese. Feel free to spice it up, add whatever you fancy and make it your own!
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