The weather has cooled down considerably and this means it is time for lazy comfort foods. While the norm may be to turn to soups and stews, sometimes I prefer a no-fuss stir fry. Nothing beats tossing a few choice ingredients into a heated pan and ending up with dinner in under 15 minutes or 20, tops. You can’t do that with soup or stew, at least not the homemade kind.
This stir fry uses the heartier beef instead of my favorite chicken and it plays well in this weather. I used an assortment of vegetables, mainly stuff that I picked up at the Farmer’s Market. I am so thankful to be in Texas, because our farmers seem to grow certain produce throughout the year. The fact that we are sort of immune to the whole frozen-like-ice-cubes-in-winter syndrome helps, I am sure. Touch-wood! The ginger and spring onions are from the grocery store though.
But I found basil. Beautiful, fragrant, vibrant basil! I experimented by drying and crumbling a few stalks. In case I run out of fresh basil in the winter, you know. A good part of the green leaves went into this stir fry. And of course, some made their way into this beautiful savory galette that was posted last week. I am proud to say that for once, I used up every single part of the herb before the leaves started to wilt/rot on me (pat on back)!
Okay, back to our stir fry. It has ginger, garlic and scallions, a bit of fish oil, soy sauce and chili sauce as well. And of course, a whole bunch of basil. So I call it Thai inspired. The basil leaves are not tossed only at the end as a sort of garnish or after-thought, but a big handful is wilted in the pan along with the browned beef. Much like you would add spinach or some other leafy greens. The basil leaves certainly lift the flavor of the meat and vegetables, taking something as mundane as a stir fry to a whole new level.
Initially I wanted to serve it over noodles, like a spin on pad Thai, but then I was too lazy and went with couscous. Since I mostly use the fine, quick-cooking variety, it literally takes 5 minutes to make. And I like to use it in different ways, pairing it with meat and vegetable dishes from different cuisines. Sometimes, I make an Indian pilaf out of it or serve it with a curry to cut the heat somewhat. Sometimes, it is a stand-in for pasta or in this case, noodles. Gotta love me some couscous! But you can serve the stir fry over noodles or rice, if that’s what you prefer.
On to the recipe now.
- Oil - 2 tbsp
- Carrots - 2 medium, julienned
- Bell peppers - 2 small, thinly sliced
- Broccoli florets - 1 cup (fresh or frozen)
- Scallions - 3-4, chopped
- Ginger - 1 tbsp, chopped
- Garlic - 2 cloves, chopped
- Lean ground beef - 1 lb
- Fresh basil leaves - 1½ cups
- Soy sauce - 2 tbsp
- Fish sauce - 2 tsp
- Brown sugar - 1 tsp
- Chili sauce - 2 tbsp (or as per heat)
- Salt - to taste
- Sesame seeds - to garnish (optional)
- Lemon wedges - to serve
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the vegetables and stir fry for a couple of minutes, till they are tender-crisp. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
- Heat the remaining oil, add scallions, ginger and garlic and saute till onions are soft.
- Then add the beef and cook till browned, around 8 minutes. Keep stirring all the while, scraping up any bits stuck to the pan.
- When beef is almost done, add 1 cup of basil leaves and sauces (soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and chili sauce). Saute for a couple more minutes till well combined and leaves are wilted.
- Return vegetables to pan and combine together.
- Check seasoning and add salt if needed (fish sauce and soy sauce will add most of the salt). Sprinkle a bit of water if it looks too dry.
- Toss in the rest of the basil leaves and remove from heat. Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top before serving.
- Serve with lemon wedges and a side of noodles, rice or fluffy couscous as shown here.
This stir fry can also be prepared with chicken or vegan options like tofu or just the vegetables.
It is a rather light stir fry and not heavy at all, the basil leaves adding a welcome freshness and lots of flavor. But it doesn’t fall short of satisfying you, which is what a good stir fry or any recipe is about!
Try this recipe the next time you want something that’s easy to make, comforting and delicious to eat, while still being light and healthy. Let me know if you try it!
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