During those days when both time and money are in short supply, a harried cook needs to be able to fall back on some easy, inexpensive recipes.
A concern for health and fitness places another requirement on these recipes: The food should be low in fat (especially saturated fat) and high fiber and in complex carbohydrates. Seven-Ingredient Fried Rice fulfills all three of these requirements deliciously.
The ingredients for the zesty, aromatic sauce can be assembled as much as two weeks in advance and refrigerated until ready to prepare. The rice can also be cooked in advance and refrigerated (or frozen) until needed. (Substitute long-grain brown rice for white, if desired).
Seven-Ingredient Fried Rice can be made with either fresh or frozen vegetables; frozen vegetables don't need to be blanched or defrosted before cooking. Use any kind of cooked meat in the dish, such as yesterday's roast chicken, leftover steak or minced ham. If no meat is available, the recipe is just as tasty without it.
Have all the ingredients at hand before turning on the stove. Once the wok or skillet is ready, the cooking time is only minutes.
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed through a press
2 tablespoons oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced into strips
1 1/2 cup celery, cut on the diagonal
1 cup carrots, cut on the diagonal
1 cup cooked, cubed meat, such as lean chicken, turkey or pork
1/2 cup red or green bell pepper, diced
3 cups cooked, cooled rice (preferably day old)
1 cup sugar snap peas or snow peas, stems removed
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a two-cup mixing bowl. Stir vigorously with a fork until the sugar has dissolved. Place near the stove where it will be handy.
Assemble the remaining ingredients near the stove in individual piles or dishes. Precook the carrots for one minute in a microwave oven on high (100 percent) power. The carrots may also be blanched in boiling water for two minutes to tenderize them.
Place the oil in a wok or a large skillet. Set over high heat and allow oil to become quite hot. Add the onions first, stirring occasionally until they begin to caramelize and turn brown around the edges. Add the celery and stir for two minutes longer. Add the carrots, meat, and bell pepper and cook for two minutes longer, stirring constantly.
Add the rice all at once, stirring quickly to mix all ingredients together. (Some rice may begin to stick to the sides of the wok or skillet, but continue stirring.) Add the sugar-snap peas and pour in sauce mixture. Stir until mixture is evenly colored with the sauce. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Makes four servings.