Asparagus, the quintessential spring vegetable, serves as a springboard for this bright pork stir-fry. It’s a delicious dinner candidate for a harried weeknight. If desired, chicken or
steak can replace the pork.
Stir It Up
Follow these tips to get the most out of your stir-fry cooking.
For the best stir-frying, use a 14-inch carbon steel wok with a flat bottom and long wooden handle. With regular use, the wok will develop more of a non-stick surface. A 12-inch stainless steel skillet with high sides is a good alternative, but avoid non-stick pans since many can’t handle the heat. Preferably, use a thin, flexible metal spatula that can easily slip under foods in the pan.
Stir-frying is a fast-and-furious process, so practice mise en place, which is French parlance for having all your ingredients, including sauces, prepped and ready to go.
Use an oil in your pan with a high-smoke point, such as peanut, canola, rice bran, avocado or grapeseed oil. Before adding the oil, heat your wok to the point where water droplets vaporize on impact with the pan.
Follow the Leader
When stir-frying, start by cooking your meats, followed by denser vegetables like carrots, zucchini or asparagus and then delicate items such as leafy greens. Use only quick-cooking proteins, such as chicken breast, steak, shrimp, salmon, pork tenderloin or tofu. For even cooking, slice proteins and vegetables to a uniform size.
Over-filling your pan can bring down the heat, causing your ingredients to steam instead of stir-fry. This can lead to soggy (not crispy) veggies and meats that don’t obtain delicious browning. You always want to hear a sizzle, so don’t be afraid to cook in batches, if necessary. Spread meats in a single layer in your pan and let them sear undisturbed about a minute before stirring. This promotes caramelization (yum!) and reduces sticking.
Contributing chef Matthew Kadey, RD, is a registered dietitian and food writer. He is author of The Muffin Tin Chef (Ulysses Press), The No-Cook, No-Bake Cookbook (Ulysses Press) and Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sports and Adventure (VeloPress).Yields 4 servings
- 2 teaspoons + 1 tablespoon canola oil or grapeseed oil
- 1 cup uncooked pre-rinsed quinoa
- 1¾ cups water
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound pork loin, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 cups spinach
- 1/4 cup sliced roasted almonds, optional
1Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan. Add quinoa, stir to coat in oil and heat until grain smells toasty and begin to darken, stirring occasionally. Add water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 5 minutes; then fluff with a fork.
2In a small bowl, stir together lemon zest, lemon juice, thyme, mustard, salt, chili flakes and black pepper.
3Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil, swirl to coat and place pork in the pan. Stir-fry pork until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Remove pork from heat, place asparagus and shallots in pan and stir-fry until asparagus is tender, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic to pan; heat 2 minutes.
4Add pork and lemon mixture to pan and heat 1 minute, stirring everything together. Stir in spinach and heat just until wilted.
5Serve pork stir-fry with quinoa. Sprinkle almonds on top for garnish, if desired.