I believe in fried rice. For one, I try to eat meals centered on grains and vegetables, in order to stay budget-conscious and flexitarian. Fried rice wins on that front. Also, if I can make a whole meal in one pan, I feel exuberant, accomplished, and smiley. Another point for fried rice (if you use leftover rice). I feel like a mad scientist each time I cleanse the fridge of every last handful of green beans, remaining two radishes, slightly wilting scallions, and leftover chicken. Fried rice takes those leftovers and makes them happy, not sad. Another point! Maybe you believe in fried rice now too.
No good reason exists for not extending fried rice’s winning streak to other grains, particularly the beloved, high-protein quinoa. In this substantial, meat-light, veggie-filled grain dish, I combine cooked quinoa with a little bit of inexpensive top round steak, green beans and eggplant from the farmers’ market, and plentiful savory seasonings (ginger, garlic, onion, sriracha, soy sauce, and lime).
Of course fried rice can be far humbler. Try Food52′s genius fried rice on nights when there’s nothing in the house to eat. Use up leftover Chinese take-out in homemade fried rice. Sub in tofu for the steak, bok choy for the string beans, zucchini for the eggplant: this is about what you have in your fridge.
Humble, humbler, or humblest, fried rice is never fancy, even when there’s steak and quinoa in the wok. Really, if you want to know what a regular old quarter-life cook actually fixes for dinner after an exhausting day, you found it (no, does doesn’t make this or that). I hope it becomes part of your rotation too.
Steak & Quinoa Fried Rice with Eggplant & Green Beans
I used a mix of red and white quinoa for this, just because. Feel free to use whatever variety you like! You could also try it with mixed grains, as in this recipe. If you’re cooking for two, reserve two portions for the next day’s lunch–this is fantastic left over.
1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa (red, white, or a mix; use about 4 cups of pre-cooked quinoa)
About 3/4 pound top round steak, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
About 5 tablespoons safflower or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 scallions, white and light green parts sliced and sliced green parts saved for garnish
1 onion, diced
2 small Japanese eggplants, cut into half moons
Handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2-3 teaspoons Sriracha
1 lime, cut into wedges
Cook the quinoa according to package directions. It’s best to do this early in the day or the day before you want to eat. Refrigerate if you’ve made early in the day. If you’re making the quinoa just before dinner, spread the cooked grains out on a baking sheet so that they cool quickly. You should have about 4 cups.
Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat for 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons oil and the steak and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Sprinkle with salt. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry 1 more minute then scape out into a bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons oil and the eggplant, onion, and scallion. Sprinkle with salt. Cook until the veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the string beans and cook 2 more minutes. Add the cooked quinoa and the steak and stir fry for about 3 minutes to heat everything up.
Push quinoa to the side. Pour in 1-2 tablespoons oil into the empty space you created and pour in the eggs. Let set for a few minutes without stirring, then scramble them in their little space before stirring the cooked eggs back into the rice.
In a little bowl, mix together the brown sugar, soy sauce and sriracha. Drizzle this sauce over the stir fry and toss to combine. Taste for salt and spice and season to taste. Divide into portions and garnish with the green part of the scallions. Squeeze a little lime juice over each. Serve hot or room temperature with lime wedges.