As the hours of daylight really start waning, I often find myself compelled to eat dinner much earlier than usual. I jokingly call it “senior-citizen time.” However, though home-life tends to slow right down each autumn, all other daily activities keep at a relatively steady pace. Essentially, this means that there is actually less time to put a warm and healthy meal on the table each night. Besides the comfort-food factor that comes with a hearty meal like a slow braise or chunky soup, there is an element of practicality involved. Namely, meals like this can simmer all day or be made a day ahead and easily heated through for a quick, early supper. However, meals like this also take some planning ahead, and it’s tough to be organized enough to do that every day.
This quick stir-fry makes the most out of those nights when you’re faced with a lack of pre-planning, as well as a time crunch. For a more refreshing meal than the long-cooked proteins and vegetables seen in many winter dishes, we’ve paired crisp peppers with tender, flavorful meat and the bright punch of fresh herbs. The mellow heat from the immune-boosting chiles warms the blood and helps clear our sinuses, a welcome feature during cold and flu season.
Fish sauce is essential to creating Vietnamese and Thai dishes. Made by fermenting* anchovies in salt for months, many people are discouraged by the very concept of it. But you will notice that the taste and odor transforms into a rich flavor and gives your final dish a taste dimension, known as umami, that simply can’t be replicated with a substitute. Mirin is a Japanese rice wine, similar to sake, and gives the sauce a subtle sweetness without any additional sugar. I favor Red Boat brand fish sauce and Eden brand mirin, as both are prepared using traditional, chemical-free, and sugar-free recipes. Both fish sauce and mirin can be found in the Asian sections of most well-stocked grocery stores.
1 large onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 bell peppers, assorted colors, sliced
2 red chiles, sliced, or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
24 ounces lean beef, thinly sliced against the meat grain
Salt and pepper
Coconut or peanut oil, for stir-frying
1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons arrowroot
1. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Thinly slice beef and season with salt and pepper. Set aside in a bowl.
3. Prepare vegetables and herbs. Set aside.
4. Heat a wok or large shallow pan until very hot, over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon or so of oil and let heat through. Add onions to hot oil and cook, stir-frying for 3 minutes. Add garlic and chiles to onions, and toss for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add peppers to wok, and stir-fry everything until crisp-tender, about 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside.
5. Add seasoned beef to wok, with a little additional oil, if necessary. Cook beef, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned in places and almost cooked through, about 3 minutes. Return vegetables to wok, and add sauce. Stir-fry until sauce thickens slightly and meat is cooked through, 1 minute longer. Add herbs, and toss to combine.
*For more on fermented fish, check out The Art of Fermentation.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
·chemical- and hormone-free meat
·pastured-raised, organic eggs
·whole, unrefined grains
·virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
·whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
·pure, clean, spring water
·raw and/or cultured milk and cream products