Do you love stir fry, but find the prep work tedious? I felt the same way until I learned some easy short cuts that not only cut back on my prep time, but also meant less clean up time. One of those short-cuts involved the mixture of garlic, ginger, scallions, and red pepper flakes that add complex flavors to my stir fries. No matter what meat or vegetables I cook in my stir fry, I always make a little well in the center and quickly fry some aromatics in it before adding a sauce. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to mince the aromatics small enough that we don’t end up biting into a big, unappetizing hunk of garlic or ginger. I could use the food processor, but I don’t want to get it dirty for such a small job. I also don’t want to have to buy ginger every time we have a stir fry and ginger doesn’t really last all that long. The solution that works for us is to prepare enough aromatics for several stir fry dinners at once and then freeze them in ice cube trays.
4 heads peeled garlic (about 8 oz once peeled or 1 cup minced)
2 oz peeled ginger (about 1/4 cup minced)
Whites of 16-20 scallions
1 TB red pepper flakes (optional, adjust according to heat preferences)
¼ cup sesame oil
Unless you love chopping food into tiny bits, use a food processor to mince the garlic, ginger, scallions, and red pepper flakes. I try to process until it is just short of a puree.
Spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray in 1 TB portions, making about 18 portions. Press the aromatics in tight and then spread the sesame oil over the top where it can soak in and fill in any holes before freezing.
When you are ready to make a stir fry, get an aromatic flavor cube out as soon as you start cooking. This will allow it to thaw a little before mixing into your stir fry. I set the cube near the pan to help the thawing process. This mixture can also be used to flavor a marinade for grilling meat.
Simplify stir fry with aromatic flavor cubes. Happy Cooking!
I have a minor obsession with centerpieces. Over the years, I have tried one thing after another, never satisfied with my efforts. I guess it is important to me because centerpieces are usually the focal point of any dining room, so I want ours to make a statement. Unfortunately, sometimes that statement was, “I am too tall to have a conversation over” or “I am really easy to knock over”. More than once it turned out to be, “I looked good on Pinterest, but I don’t work in real life”. Even when a centerpiece was attractive, the look was always marred by the practical items that needed to stay on the table for meals. Finally, it occurred to me–why not make those functional items into one centerpiece? Doing so had the added benefit of allowing us to stop moving items to and from the table every day.
There are many possibilities for a container in which to place your centerpiece items. The one that I used is technically a condiment server. When I was looking for just the right item, I also looked at trough planters, caddies, old wooden toolboxes, and even copper fish kettles. I especially wish I had seen this gorgeous wine trough to use as a centerpiece. Etsy has some great options, but I also looked on Amazon and Ebay.
The item that I eventually bought is 18″ long, which allows space for me to place food on either end when we eat. If you have a long table, you might go as long as 24″ or possibly longer. As you can see, mine is divided into sections, but I am not sure that I would choose a sectioned centerpiece again unless the sections were at least 7-8 inches wide. This would have allowed the trivets to fit in without angling them. Also pay attention to the height of the items that you want to put in there. These sections are 4″ deep and my salt and pepper shakers are just barely tall enough to easily access. If you use a shallower container, you might use jelly jars or other containers to hold items upright.
The items to put in your centerpiece depend entirely on what you typically need at the table. For us, that meant napkins, trivets, salt & pepper shakers, silverware, and the pink-striped tea towels that we use as place mats. You could also consider other condiments than do not require refrigeration. Another possibility would be placing all of your serving spoons in your centerpiece.
I hope that you are inspired to design your own useful centerpiece. Happy Decorating!