Sometimes I get bored with leftovers. After I’ve eaten something once or twice, I’m ready to move on. But I also hate to let things go to waste, which is where the ability to re-purpose and re-envision ingredients comes in handy.The other day, I was faced with an abundance of green beans from the garden and some leftover grilled flank steak in the fridge. We do a lot of southwest and Latin influenced meals, but I wasn’t really in the mood for fajitas or tacos or burritos on this particular day. Besides, the green beans didn’t really fit into that flavor profile.
I decided instead to go the Asian route and do a stir fry, incorporating some rainbow carrots from the garden, and some red bell pepper and sweet yellow onion. I didn’t really use a recipe, just went on instinct and tasted as I cooked. I served it all over some brown rice. This is a great example of improvisation in the kitchen, using the ingredients you have on hand to dictate the outcome rather than the other way around.
Basil Beef Stir Fry
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Ingredients (all measurements are approximations – taste and season as you go)
- 2 Tablespoons neutral cooking oil (I used grapeseed)
- 1/2 lb. leftover beef or chicken (or tofu, if you want it to be vegetarian), sliced very thinly
- 1/2 lb. green beans
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 medium carrots, julienned
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut in chiffonade
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 cups brown rice, cooked according to package instructions
- Heat oil in a saute pan over high heat.
- Sautee the onions, peppers and carrots until they begin to brown and soften
- Add the meat and stir to heat through
- Add the green beans and saute briefly
- Combine the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar and add to the pan. Stir to coat the ingredients.
- Remove pan from the heat and cover. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the green beans will steam to finish cooking.
- Add the basil just before serving.
- Serve over cooked rice with a little of the pan sauce. Garnish with a sprig of basil.
I spiced mine up a bit by adding some of my favorite fermented chili paste – it played very well against the sweetness of the basil.
So, what are your favorite ways to improvise in the kitchen? Do you choose your ingredients based on a recipe, or do you like to let your ingredients dictate your dinner?