Breaks over…Back to Wok

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One of my good buddies is moving back east to start up graduate studies at SUNY New Paltz and for the time being has been crashing on my couch. It’s been fun reminiscing about our days of undergrad and as always it hasn’t taken us long to get back into our old habits. Specifically, me cooking and him cleaning. It worked perfectly for a few years, so why wouldn’t it work again.

When I first got started cooking for him and my other roommate it wasn’t much about composed meals. It was more about sheer quantity. The best bang for the buck. Although pasta was always a viable option, one of my go to meals was the stir fry. One of the reasons this technique is so common for up and coming cooks is how little time it requires. Plus cooking at very high heat for a short period of time is a great way to incorporate a multitude of textures into a dish especially considering the cooking times of different vegetables. And despite the subtle flavors that can be incorporated into the best stir-fry dishes through the sauce component, even a simple sesame oil and soy sauce addition goes along way. As I thought more and more about the many stir-frys I had concocted throughout the years, I realized how similar they had all been. Whether it was all veggies or the ones containing some protein (tofu, steak, chicken, shrimp, etc.) I was relying heavily on the same components….boredom crept in and I didn’t even realize it…

So last night I threw all caution to the wind and decided to try a few non-traditional components. Keeping up with my recent conversion, I used japanese eggplant along with red onion, bok choy, and snow peas as a base. Certainly none of these components are unusual but it was what I added next that really made this dish. As always, sweetness goes along way in making a dish more complex and more flavorful. One of my favorite ingredients to use for this is fennel. Whether its roasted or raw, diced or sliced, fennel adds wonderful complexity to a dish (If you think you don’t like fennel, try it roasted. The anise flavor is muted). But I never think to use fennel in an asian inspired meal. This plus a last minute addition of sliced apples was exactly what this meal needed. Nothing says enjoyment like going back for seconds!

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