Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vegetarian stir-fry

For five years now, I've had a wonderful stir-fry recipe in my possession. The sad thing is, I didn't make it until last week!

The recipe is Sweet and Spicy Peanut-Pasta Stir-Fry in the 2006 American Heart Association's Love Your Heart publication. (Not sure why they call it spicy -- maybe it's the red pepper flakes I didn't use!)

I bought that little cookbook in the grocery aisle that year and did a food column, sharing a cranberry tea recipe, I think. I've pulled out the recipe collection a few times since, but I never gave the vegetarian entree a second look, apparently.

Knowing it was heart month, I wanted to give us all a recipe we could feel good about, so I looked through that publication one more time.

This time, the recipe really appealed to me, and I couldn't wait to try the stir-fry dish, featuring red bell pepper, broccoli, carrots and onion and even dry-roasted peanuts.

This is not a super-quick recipe because there are several steps involved, including cooking the pasta, squeezing an orange for the sauce and prepping the vegetables, but I had it ready in about 30 minutes. A note on the recipe suggested making the orange juice mixture in advance to cut down on preparation time and buying cut produce from the grocery store. I did get my broccoli from a salad bar but still had to cut it some to smaller sizes.

The aroma was wonderful on both the sauce and the sauteed veggies, and I couldn't wait to try it! Let's just say I wasn't disappointed.

Hands down, this is one of my favorite dishes I have ever made for this food column. I think part of its appeal is that it's different from anything else I make, and I was so proud when it turned out as pretty as the picture in the cookbook!

So why is it good? The citrus flavor teamed with the stir-fried vegetables is fantastic, and the blend of textures is extra appealing. I love the crunch of the peanuts and the wonderful flavor they add.

The recipe makes a lot, enough for four is what's suggested, and there was enough for leftovers the next day. All morning, I kept thinking of my stir-fry waiting for me at home! I decided to warm it in a skillet instead of the microwave, hoping the peanuts would be just as good as the night before, and they were!

I plan to make this dish often and keep it in the refrigerator to have at lunch. I want to try it with a little stir-fried chicken as well and will probably eliminate the peanuts if I make it that way.

Be good to your heart (and your tastebuds) and give this dish a try.

Sweet & Spicy Peanut-Pasta Stir-Fry
  • 5 ounces uncooked whole-wheat vermicelli or spaghetti, broken in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled ginger root
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts (about 21/2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 cups small fresh broccoli florets (no larger than 3/4 inch)
  • 1 medium carrot cut into matchstick-size pieces (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 1 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips
Prepare the pasta using the package directions, omitting the salt and oil. Drain well.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the orange zest, orange juice, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger root and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Heat the peanuts for 2 minutes or until they begin to lightly brown, stirring frequently. Transfer to a plate.

Add the oil to the same skillet and swirl to coat the bottom. Cook the broccoli, carrots, onion and bell pepper for 6 minutes or until just tender-crisp. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the cooked pasta and peanuts. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

In the same skillet, bring the orange juice mixture to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes or until reduced to about 1/3 cup, stirring constantly. Pour over the pasta mixture, stirring to blend.

Serves 4

American Heart Association

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