In a recent online grocery order, we thought we had ordered one jalapeño pepper. When we got home, we had one pound! What do you do with a pound of jalapeños? A friend ordered three bananas and got three bunches.
My dear mother grew up during the Depression and often bought to excess items on sale. I remember a cabinet full of canned salmon. It was ten for a dollar. What would she do with extra bananas? Exactly, make a pudding.
Ok, I could make fried rice. A survey of the pantry tells me I have the essentials: Oil, rice and soy sauce. I have plenty of peppers!
Normally, fried rice would call for sesame oil but I have olive oil. I prefer brown rice over white because it is better, more nutrients and better flavor. Other ingredients can bring in layers of flavor, texture and color.
Let’s see, in addition to jalapeños,I have onions, carrots, celery, green onions and frozen green peas. The recipe I developed calls for about three cups of vegetables. As you adapt your recipe using what you have, try to keep the ratio of rice to vegetables similar to the original recipe to maintain balance.
A package of frozen mixed vegetables could be substituted to reduce chopping time. Smaller cut veggies work better in a stir-fry. They brown faster and more evenly. And that browning is an essential part of good fried rice. If you add meat, cut it into small bite-size pieces.
Fried rice is traditionally prepared in a wok over high heat but this dish can easily be done in a large skillet. Stir-frying the ingredients in batches and then combining them at the end ensures that they are each cooked to the right level of doneness.
If you are not comfortable with your knife skills, you can use a portable chopper. Just don’t create a mush. You want small pieces about the size of the end of your little finger. There are good online tutorials on developing knife skills. And this essential culinary skill is worth spending a little time on.
Soy sauce is very high in sodium. Even lite soy sauce is a high sodium ingredient. Diluting soy sauce half strength with water yields good flavor, reduces the sodium and stretches this ingredient for later dishes. Other oriental sauces, such as teriyaki, work well in this dish.
Those extra jalapeños were good in a lot of places I normally wouldn’t have used them. They enhance any sauté. With onions and a little garlic, they make a nice addition to scrambled eggs.
They work in tuna salad. Removing the seeds of any hot pepper greatly reduces the hot and leaves that good pepper flavor. My mother would be proud.
One of the great blessings of staying home more is that we have more time to cook.
This, I suppose, could be a blessing or a curse but, I see it as an opportunity to create family experiences. Any time invested in relationships always pays dividends. Our children and grandchildren will tell stories of how we lived through the great pandemic. Today we have a chance to create stories about how we celebrated as a family and grew closer. And perhaps our children will make fried rice for their children with extra jalapeño peppers!
Make the most of this time.
Tim Scallon is a registered dietitian nutritionist with years of experience practicing nutrition therapy in local hospitals and clinics, teaching nutrition and developing healthy recipes. He is a Nacogdoches resident and he helped create the popular TV show Memorial Cooking Innovations celebrating the world of food and health. Memorial Cooking Innovations currently runs in 62 cities and is locally available on Sudden Link cable channel 2 in Nacogdoches.