My work to get back into planning dinners — shopping strategically and making one of a list of five dinners during the work week — is the motivation for this month's column. Looking for new recipes inevitably takes me to Pinterest, where I marvel over some real head-scratchers, like hot dogs rolled in American cheese and then baked inside store-bought tinned croissant dough (eww).
I also come across simpler problems, like the fact that most of the stir-fry recipes with meat in them seem to ... have only meat. After seeing 100-plus stir fry recipes that were meat and rice alone, I decided to draft my own. This one is an easy weeknight dish, made fancier with marinated cucumbers you can totally ignore if you're pressed for time — and it incorporates entire heads of broccoli and bok choy, which add nutrition and also some fiber.
This turned out to be one of my favorite recipes, maybe ever. It's packed with flavor, it's not too salty and the vegetables bring balance. Enjoy!
BEEF AND VEGETABLE STIR FRY
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you want)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 head broccoli
1 head bok choy
Plus more sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar to splash on veggies
2 cups jasmine rice (make it simple on the stovetop or in the instant pot while you cook the beef)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Salt to taste
Marinated cucumbers: Peel cucumber and chop. Add to bowl with salt, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar and red pepper flakes. Mix to combine, then set aside on counter to marinate while you cook the main course.
Stir-fry: First, chop broccoli and bok choy roughly; set aside along with chopped scallions. Get your rice going. Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, sugar, garlic and ginger in bowl until sugar has dissolved. Toss in some scallions and set aside.
Heat 2 teaspoons sesame oil in a large nonstick pan and add ground beef, breaking up with wooden spoon or your preferred utensil. After beef has begun cooking, add all of your marinade, mix until combined, and let everything simmer in the pan without moving it until liquid is mostly evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Add another tablespoon or so of chopped scallions without stirring.
With slotted spoon, remove beef/marinade/scallion mix and set aside in bowl. Beef should be nicely browned. Add broccoli, bok choy, and a splash of rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce and salt; stir to combine, then cook until bok choy has decreased in size and broccoli is cooked, 5 to 6 minutes. Add beef back into pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes until everything is warm and homogeneous. Serve with rice.
Note: A few people have contacted me or written in about my flub in last month's column. They are 100 percent right — of course you can't call a recipe vegetarian if it uses chicken broth! My bad. I will read more carefully next time. Kudos to those of you who figured it out and just used vegetable broth instead.