Today: The brightest dinner you can make straight out of your freezer.
Do you have a coterie of forgotten greens and anemic herbs in your crisper drawer that aren't making dinner happen any faster? Do you wish that you could press your freezer into service at moments like these, and that a logical strategy for freezing and defrosting ran in your blood the way that ordering pizza and scrambling eggs do?
It's okay! We all have these moments. I have them all the time. Happily for all of us, this Secret Weapon Stir-Fry Sauce from Amanda Cohen, chef-owner of New York City's most celebrated vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy, solves every one of our classic problems, and does it with so little effort, it's shocking we never thought to do it before. "I'm kind of surprised people like this recipe so much," Cohen wrote to me. "Because I really did just throw it together to deal with my own refrigerator shame."
It's a secret weapon in more ways than you'd expect. First, it's a quick way of shuttling all of your faltering greens and herbs and desiccated nubs of ginger out of their holding pens and into the future. Just blanch the green stuff, don't wring it dry, pile it in a blender with garlic and ginger, and then pour it all into an ice cube tray.
The real dinner secret weapon is packed in these mulchy-looking ice cubes. Squirrel them away in your freezer and you can have a vividly flavored fried rice or stir-fry anytime without washing or chopping or peeling—or even defrosting.
Add a few cubes straight from the freezer into the skillet at the last moment to instantly release all the flavor and fragrance you locked away in ice. Add whatever vegetables (or eggs or leftover bits and bobs) you have in the fridge and your whole kitchen ecosystem is suddenly operating at 100% efficiency.
Though Cohen likes it best for dispatching lingering containers of take-out rice, "It's adaptable for any grain, really," she says—anywhere you want "a really big, bright green blast." Five minutes ago.
Serves 2, with plenty of leftover stir-fry sauce
For the fried rice:
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup trimmed and quartered brussels sprouts
1 cup diced fennel
2 cups chopped chard
1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
4 cups leftover rice, loosely packed (about 1 large, quart-size carton or 2 small pint-size cartons)
Rice wine vinegar, to taste
4 frozen cubes (or 4 tablespoons fresh) Secret Weapon Stir-Fry Sauce
Soy sauce, to taste
Fish sauce, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste
For the Secret Weapon Stir-Fry Sauce:
2/3 cup cilantro
2/3 cup parsley
2/3 cup Thai basil (or substitute regular basil)
4 cups spinach
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to Associate Editor Ali Slagle for this one!
The Genius Recipes cookbook is finally here—and a New York Times Best Seller! The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites—all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It's on shelves now, or you can order your copy here.
Photos by James Ransom