I’ve always loved fried rice, but this summer it’s become a weekly staple. I try to cook a few cups of rice when I have a moment in the morning, and then we know we can get down the wok, chop up the garlic, and fry the already-cooked rice when we’re starving in the evening. Usually, there are leftovers of that, a repurposed repurposing which bodes well for at least one more meal.
I used to make fried rice the same way every time. Recently, I’ve varied my fried rice practice, thanks to inspiration from professional fried rice makers, like Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Andy Ricker. Because fried rice is such a cheap, quick, and filling dish, and a brilliant way to use up leftover grain, it makes sense to me that so many experts from around the world would have pioneering methods that they swear by.
Chefs may swear by single methods, but I’m much more fickle, likely to swear by them all, depending on the day. As I became enamored of one way and then another, I’ve gathered tips that inform the dish overall. Maybe they’ll inform your fried rice making too, whatever phase you’re in right now.
You can make fried rice my old way
For a long time, I’ve made fried rice in the same way as any other clean-out-the-fridge stir-fry: cook onions, ginger, and garlic, add other vegetables in hot oil in a wok, add cooled white or brown rice, push everything aside to make room for a beaten egg, which I’d scramble egg, and add sauce. If I was using meat, I’d stir-fry it first and then set aside before returning it to the pan. For sauce, I’d go as minimal as nothing but salt, take a middle ground of pouring on soy sauce, or max out at soy sauce plus brown sugar and sriracha. This fried rice can be vegetable-rich or poor, it’s sometimes a bit clumpy, but most importantly it’s addictive and delicious.
You can use other grains
For a while, my biggest variation was what grain I used. In the name of eating a whole protein, I stir-fried quinoa in addition to or instead of rice. This idea lets you play around with the nutritional content of your dish, or use up what’s in the pantry.
You can caramelize your onion and garlic
Probably my first big departure from fried rice as usual happened after I read this Vongerichten recipe, which Food52 published three years ago. The ingredients were minimal, but the method was peculiar. You almost deep-fry minced garlic and ginger, strain the pieces out, caramelize some leeks, cook rice in the flavored oil with the leeks, and then top everything with a fried egg, soy sauce, and sesame oil.
You should cook in small batches and season with fish sauce
Here’s where I am right now, today: Andy Ricker’s recipe for khao phat muu from Pok Pok. You start with a crispy fried egg, which you roughly push to the side of the wok instead of treating delicately, because it doesn’t matter if your yolk breaks. You cook shallots and garlic. You make one serving at a time, so that every grain touches the pan. (While that means you probably don’t want to cook this for a crowd, you’ll find that for two or three the batches go so fast that you’ll follow Ricker’s direction.) You use bits of pork, or shrimp, or no meat at all. You season with a mix of fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. You garnish with something spicy–bird’s eye chilies in vinegar, or sriracha. Ricker calls for a garnish of cilantro, but this summer I’ve been sprinkling on both mint and Thai basil, because that’s what’s growing in the garden.
You can use freshly cooked rice
And here’s maybe where I’m going, at least in a pinch. In a recent Bon Appétit video, we witness Danny Bowien saying that he uses fresh Jasmine rice, straight from the rice cooker. Using a really hot wok means, I guess, that you can press out the lumps against the surface, and so the dryness and separateness of previously cooked rice isn’t at such a premium.
A creamy sweet treat is hard to beat on a humid late-summer night. The cocktail-like flavors of this light-as-air dessert are even more attractive. Add in the fact that this is an easy dessert to make at the last minute, and it’s easily a go-to recipe for your backyard parties. A fool is a European dessert, similar in texture to mousse and usually flavored with fruit purees. It is so pretty served in glass cocktail glasses to show off its lovely magenta berry swirl.
In a small kitchen, you don’t need a lot of equipment to cook great food. Still, you do need some pots, pans, utensils, and dishes–obviously. In the BGSK book, you’ll find a bare bones list of necessary tools, but I’ve long wanted to bring you a similar resource on the web.
So we’re going one by one, stocking up our virtual pantries and maybe our real ones too.
Cooking is hardly low-impact. In fact, making dinner can be downright dramatic. Food sizzles loudly. Smoke explodes from your pan. Hot liquids splatter up from simmering pots.
And then there are the smells. Most of the scents that waft from pots and pans are delicious, at least before dinner. Afterwards, some foods give off odors that linger way too long. These include anything fried, fish, bacon, and broccoli. (Any other scents you hate? I can’t stand how caramelized onions smell, even though I adore how they taste!) I have a few methods for getting the smells out quickly from a small space, including closing the bedroom door before I start, opening a lot of windows, and pointing the fan outwards. The one that restores odor equilibrium best is burning a nice-smelling candle after dinner. I love the candles from Antica Farmacista, especially the grapefruit.
And, here are the very delicious foods whose not-so delicious after-scents you’ll burn off with your candle (pictured above).
These red lentil pockets give me away: If I could pick a food era to return to, I’d choose the ’00s: the age of wraps. Now you know.
In college, I would down anything in a wrap! Salad tasted better, overly sweet teriyaki chicken and rice were killer when swaddled in a burrito, and even the weird dining hall fare went from a 4 to a 6 when you turned chicken and cheese from a freestanding dinner into the filling of a whole wheat pocket.
These creamy, dreamy frozen chocolate banana bites are sure to make the rest of your summer more delicious. Easy enough to make for the kids on a whim, and delicious enough for the grown-ups to eat straight from the freezer when the kids aren’t looking, these are sure to be a hit. They’re a riff on the famous Trader Joe’s “Gone Bananas”—with an even more tasty addition of a white chocolate drizzle to take these to the next level.
You’d think this would be a great recipe to use up too-ripe bananas, but resist the urge. The method will still work, but fresh bananas hold up much better and give you a fresher treat. Freezing the slices beforehand makes the treats edible as soon as you put the chocolate on, but feel free to dip unfrozen slices then freeze for later. This recipe makes slices from just one banana, but feel free to scale up and up and up. Still, since the chocolate will eventually seize because of the moisture in the bananas, I recommend making this in one-banana batches.
Natalie of Good Girl Style joins us each month to share incredible desserts with Big Girls, Small Kitchen readers–desserts that are entirely gluten-free, but not like obviously gluten-free. That means no specialty flours or hard-to-find ingredients, just stuff like bananas and chocolate. Want even more GF desserts for summer? Check out Natalie’s recipe for Sweet Tea Slushies.
When you bring homemade pizza to a picnic, you can’t afford to have cheese sliding all over. Maybe that’s why we don’t see enough pizza posing as picnic food: we’re all afraid of hot mozz sliding off the marinara and onto our laps. Or maybe worse–the cheese congealing while we toss the frisbee until we sit down to a pie that looks more like yesterday’s late-night order than today’s fresh meal.
But what if you forget pizza margarita and make a pie that’s less saucy and slide-y? If you do so, you’ll see that pizzas, re-envisioned as vegetable-topped flatbreads–are ideal picnic food. They’re easy to transport, good at room temperature, and if you put enough vegetables on top you might just eliminate the need for side dishes.
Another thing you can eliminate: bringing utensils to your picnic by cutting up the pizza at home before you go. That’s what we did, with a pair of kitchen scissors, ten minutes after it came out of the oven; the crust and topping were sturdy enough by then. They held up pretty well when we piled the uneven rectangles onto two plastic plates and headed, with friends, to the park for a concert.
The presentation on plates left over from December was a little makeshift, sure, but since the cheese wasn’t dancing all around on a hot, flimsy crust, transportation was easy and successful. We brought a few napkins and nothing else, gear-wise. We ate on our blanket, grateful not to have to buy dinner at the park, food that always looks good but usually, you know, disappoints. We didn’t have to haul back containers or leftovers, either.
When I made this again the following week, we weren’t going anywhere outside to eat. So after the timer beeped and I piled on the parm, I sat down to a meal in a very sticky apartment. That’s when the foolishness of turning the oven to 500°F when the city has already hiked up the heat to 95°F became evident. My cravings make me an idiot! Still, if there’s any good reason to sweat out dinner prep right now, using summer veggies to produce pizza has got to be top of the list.