Clean-the-Fridge Stir Fry with Szechuan Sauce

18 Nov

This week has been crazy, as I worked on several projects that were much more time consuming than I had anticipated.  Meanwhile, grocery shopping did not happen, much less any house cleaning, including the refrigerator.  About every other week I make it a habit to go through the fridge, discard any old leftovers and use up produce or packaged goods that are about to expire.

Tonight’s dinner turned out to be largely inspired by the results of a refrigerator clean-out.  I came across some old spinach, broccoli, one zucchini, and a piece of ginger.  All looked like today would be their last chance at a dignified end as food, rather than trash.  I also found pineapple chunks and minced shallots that were about to expire, and jars of marinara and Szechuan sauces with only small quantities left.

The Szechuan sauce beckoned me in the direction of a stir-fry, so I searched for some more vegetables and a starch.  I thought about fried rice, but didn’t feel like waiting for brown rice to cook.  Instead, I looked in my pantry and found Chinese noodles (reminiscent of Ramen noodles).  In addition, I found some fresh carrots, Brussels sprouts, and an onion.

For today’s stir-fry, I cut the carrots into matchsticks, following a strategy taught to me by a friend.  I started by cutting diagonally along the carrot in order to make thin slices that were about 1.5 inches long and 1/4 inch thick.

Then I cut into each carrot slice lengthwise to make the matchstick.

I sauteed about 1/3 a medium onion, coarsely chopped, in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, for about three minutes in my wok.

I then added the carrot matchsticks and mixed them, allowing them to sauté for almost ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the carrots and onions cooked, I worked on cutting the Brussels sprouts, zucchini, and broccoli.  My broccoli was already cut up from a previous meal prep, but I did have to slice my zucchini into 2 inch chunks, and my Brussels sprouts into quarters after first removing the bottoms.

Once the ten minutes passed, I checked that my carrots felt tender on the outside with just a bit of crunch on the inside, since they would continue cooking more thoroughly after mixing in more ingredients. I added all the green vegetables except for spinach.  I mixed everything with about 1/4  cup vegetable broth to prevent sticking, and covered the wok with a lid.

While the vegetables steamed with the carrot and onion mix, I put water in another pot for boiling my noodles, and also began mincing my ginger with a microplane.  This ginger was definitely getting old, because it wasn’t as juicy as fresh ginger, but nevertheless, I minced away.

I love microplanes, because they are very  handy for zesting citrus fruits and mincing nutmeg too.  Below you can see what the ginger looks like after mincing.

After accumulating about 1.5 tablespoons of ginger, I added the rest of the Szechuan sauce from the old jar (about 5 tablespoons), the rest of the marinara sauce (about 1/4 cup), and half the jar of shallots (2 ounces).

I blended these ingredients with a whisk, and mixed the sauce into the stir-fry.  At this point, my water was also boiling for my noodles, so I put them in the pot.

Once the noodles were back to a rapid boil, I knew they’d only take about 3-4 minutes to cook, so it was a perfect time to add my spinach to the stir-fry, since it only needed to wilt in the stir-fry.  I mixed in the spinach and also threw in about 1/3 of the pineapple jar as well.

After testing them for an “al dente” texture, I drained the noodles in a colander.

I immediately added about half the noodles to the stir fry and mixed it thoroughly.  The entire package of Chinese noodles was just too much, and I prefer to have a stir-fry that is more vegetable than starch.

The final entree was delicious!  We did add soy sauce once it was plated, because I didn’t even think of it while cooking, but otherwise the Szechaun/marinara blend was delicious but not overpowering.  Both the pineapple and the ginger were just the right amount to give it a distinct, but subtle flavor.  I was very pleased with how the carrots softened and had a natural sweetness, while the Brussels sprouts had absorbed a lot of the sauce’s flavor.  However, the noodles did break apart, which I wasn’t expecting — I’m thinking that maybe they had continued cooking with the heat of the stir-fry.  Perhaps next time I should bring them together on the plate instead of the wok, or boil them for less time.

Overall, it was delicious, and I am looking forward to having some for lunch tomorrow.  In the mean time, I have to think about what to do with the rest of the noodles, shallot, and pineapple I didn’t use today!


One Response to “Clean-the-Fridge Stir Fry with Szechuan Sauce”

  1. Christine Scalfo-Glover November 18, 2010 at 11:04 pm #


    You truly are very adventurous in the kitchen. You inspire me.

    I have no doubt you’ll come up with something amazing to do with the noodles, shallots and pineapple. Can’t wait to hear what you create.

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