If you can tolerate dairy, consider welcoming halloumi into your kitchen. This dense Middle Eastern cheese is remarkable in that it doesn’t melt when heated; time in the wok gives it a crispy outside and velvety interior. A riced cauliflower pesto keeps this recipe tasting extra fresh. No food processor? Look for brands of ready-to-go cauliflower rice like Green Giant and Trader Joe’s. To make this dish dairy-free, omit the halloumi and add an extra can of chickpeas.
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 5 servings
- 6 cups cauliflower florets
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or grapeseed oil, divided
- 1/4 cup prepared pesto
- 1 pound halloumi, sliced into 1-inch cubes, or 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 large eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
- Salt, to taste
- 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
1In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower florets until they resemble the size of rice grains.
2In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon zest, paprika and black pepper.
3Heat a wok or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat the pan. Place cauliflower in the pan. Cook until cauliflower begins to darken, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in pesto and heat 30 seconds. Remove cauliflower from pan.
4Place remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan. Place halloumi in pan and heat 3 minutes or until cheese is golden. Remove halloumi from pan and set aside.
5Place eggplant in pan, sprinkle with salt and heat until softened and darkened, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add chickpeas, red pepper and garlic to pan; heat 2 minutes. Add halloumi and balsamic mixture to pan and heat 1 minute, stirring to combine.
6Serve halloumi stir-fry with cauliflower pesto. Sprinkle parsley on top and serve.