Weeknight Cooking

The Genius Secret Weapon You Should Always Have in Your Freezer

June  3, 2015

Every week—often with your help—Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The brightest dinner you can make straight out of your freezer.

This is the recipe that will save you from all of your pesky kitchen failings. Did you forget to make a plan for dinner tonight? Do you need that dinner to be on the table five minutes ago?

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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.

Amanda Cohen's Secret Weapon Stir-Fry Sauce (for Vegetable Fried Rice & More)

Adapted slightly from Dirt Candy and The New York Times

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

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

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

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • sjh657
  • Morgan
  • Sunnycovechef
  • Rebecca Doerr
    Rebecca Doerr
  • lisa123
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


sjh657 July 21, 2015
Can someone tell me why you need to blanch the greens first? Can you just add uncooked greens (and a little water into the blender if you need liquid)?
Morgan June 13, 2015
This changed my life! Such a simple, brilliant idea. Last week I had slightly wilted kale, plus some leeks and thyme that I knew I wasn't going to get to before they we no good. I used this method to preserve them, and added in a little garlic. Today I cooked some farro and tossed in a couple cubes of my greens mixture...and it was incredible! Rich, fresh flavor, right at my fingertips. And even better, those great greens didn't go to waste. Thanks!
Sunnycovechef June 8, 2015
I love, love this ! It is right down my alley. Thanks
Rebecca D. June 7, 2015
I freeze pre-packaged bags of spinach from the store right when i bring them home (or before they start getting mildew-y in the fridge) and put the little frozen "chips" into smoothies (they come out of the bag sounding like hard little potato chips). They thaw fast so don't leave the bag out of the freezer for very long.
lisa123 June 3, 2015
How exciting , I have all of these ingredients in my fridge right now, I can't wait to go home and make this. (At the car wash) I usually save these in the freezer for vegetable stocks. This might be even better.
AntoniaJames June 3, 2015
We had a fun Hotline discussion on a related topic last year.
I make all kinds of homemade-convenience-food flavor-filled, supper-jumpstarting cubes. Here's an excerpt:

I make what I call my "aromatic pastes" similar to the curry paste that The Joy Kitchen posted a few weeks ago. About every month or 6 weeks, I get my food processor out and blitz up:

lemongrass + scallions + garlic paste,
scallions + ginger + garlic paste,
cilantro + garlic + scallions paste, and
tamarind + cilantro + scallion or shallot + garlic paste.
These are a godsend for starting meals, re-purposing leftovers/freezer staples into new meals, making dal taste great, turning into quick sauces for roti wraps, etc.

Full conversation is here: https://food52.com/hotline/25266-how-do-you-put-your-ice-cube-trays-to-work-other-than-for-making-pure-ice-o

James G. June 3, 2015
How long would those keep in the freezer for?
Kristen M. June 3, 2015
I checked in with Cohen's husband and this is what he said (which matches with my experience): "It's frozen so technically it can last a loooong time, but 6-8 weeks should be about right."