I have to admit, stir fry isn’t my thing. I suspect it’s because it was practically the only dish I knew how to make when I first went vegan, and so I made it all the time. (And I mean all the time, as in practically every single night.) I guess it was inevitable that I’d get tired of it. This simple broccoli stem and brown rice stir fry, however, may be turning me around.
This recipe is above all an example of root-to-stalk cooking at its finest. Being on the SNAP challenge this week has given me a new perspective on many things, but food waste in particular stands out as an issue I’m seeing with fresh eyes.
We don’t generally waste a lot of food at home: we both enjoy leftovers, and what we don’t eat right away I’ll try to freeze. But I have to admit that I’m prone to wasting parts of the vegetable that I’m not used to eating, and broccoli stems are a great example. We often have steamed broccoli florets and tahini as a dinner side dish, and I’m embarrassed to admit how often the stems get discarded. I don’t tend to make vegetable stock from scratch, so a lot of the odds and ends that people generally throw into a stock pot go to waste.
This recipe is going to become a staple in our home, a quick, easy, and satisfying way to put all of those stems to good use. I’ve always worried that the stems would be too tough unless I roasted them for a good long time, but I was totally wrong. If you slice them thinly, as I do here, and you give them a quick stir fry with sesame oil and garlic, they become delightfully tender and sweet (just like the crowns). Brown rice, tamari, vinegar, and a dash of crushed red pepper add plenty of flavor to this super simple dish.
As it is, the recipe stands alone as a perfect dinner side. But if you add some seared tofu or tempeh, some beans, or a combination of the two–and maybe a drizzle of delightfully green tahini dressing–you’ve got a complete meal on your hands.
A ridiculously easy, economical, and adaptable meal at that.
Simple Broccoli Stem & Brown Rice Stir Fry
- 1 cup short-grain brown rice rinsed (or about 3 cups cooked brown rice, or another cooked grain you've got at home)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 2 large or 3 small broccoli stalks peeled and sliced crosswise, very thinly
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- Crushed red pepper to taste
- Cook the brown rice according to package instructions. Fluff and allow to steam while you prepare the broccoli stems.
- Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. Add the broccoli stems and a pinch of salt. Saute the stems for 2-3 minutes, or until they're becoming tender and bright green. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for another 3 minutes, or until they're quite tender but still pleasantly crisp.
- Add the rice to the pan, along with the vinegar and tamari. Heat the rice through. Add a dash of red pepper flakes. Taste the stir fry and add extra vinegar, tamari, and pepper to taste. Serve.
As far as economics go, the recipe certainly fit into the SNAP challenge. It came to about $1.15 per serving in the end (it helped that I found broccoli on sale when I did my haul). We paired it with an easy tofu scramble for dinner last night, and we’ll be using the remaining two portions to pack up with lunch leftovers.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. When it comes to cooking, I think it’s definitely true that working with constraints of any kind–or alternately, having an ingredient that really needs to be used up–can lead to unexpectedly great things. Humble though it is, this stir fry is proof of that. I hope you’ll give it a shot, make it your own, and let me know what you think!
This weekend, I’ll be wrapping up my SNAP challenge experience instead of a normal weekend reading post. Lots to say, and I hope to see you then.