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Seriously Simple: Try this quick, colorful stir-fry for a weeknight dinner

By Diane Rossen Worthington, Tribune Content Agency on

Years ago I wrote a book on stir-frying. I learned a lot along the way, developing creative stir-fry dishes including noodles, rice, chicken, pork, beef and vegetables. I think of this quick technique to be one of most efficient and easy cooking methods.

My tips for a successful stir-fry depend upon having as much as possible done in advance: chopping the vegetables, measuring out the seasonings and sauce ingredients. Stir-frying means when the oil is very hot but not smoking you add the ingredients and toss them every 15 to 20 seconds for 2 to 3 minutes or until light brown. Once you learn this method you can have fun creating your own combinations.

Look for a wok that is heavy aluminum, stainless steel or traditional cast-iron. Make sure it is not too thick, though, or it will take too long to heat up. A 14-inch diameter wok is probably the best all-around size, since it can be used to cook a whole fish or a simple sampling of your favorite vegetables. A cover is also important when you want to stir-fry something, and finish braising it in the wok. You may need to use a wok ring if the bottom of the wok is rounded.

You'll love this fast and incredibly flavorful stir-fry. The onions take on a caramelized sweet essence, while the peppers add color and textural contrast. For an extra flavor dimension add a teaspoon of chopped orange zest. Serve steamed rice or vegetable fried rice as an accompaniment for a quick weeknight dinner.

Diane's stir-frying tips

--Use a high heat resistant oil like peanut oil for stir-frying.

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--Think about the sizes of the meat and vegetables so that you add them in the logical order for even cooking. For example, add carrots before zucchini or red peppers and asparagus before corn kernels.

--Make sure the wok is very hot and almost smoking to achieve the desired effect of browning the meat or poultry or sealing in the juices of the vegetables.

--If you don't want to marinate the meat or poultry, you can add extra flavor through aromatics or the final sauce.

--If you like a glaze rather than a slightly thick sauce, you can omit the cornstarch that is often recommended in classic Chinese recipes. Instead, make sure that your sauce will have some flavor and substance so when it is reduced it will form a glaze.

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