This quick and easy weeknight dinner recipe combines earthy mushrooms, spring asparagus, and the heat of fresh ginger for a vegan stir fry that’s light, bright, and a little bit spicy.
Today is a momentous day. It’s an occasion to be celebrated, really. It’s not my birthday, or Eddie’s, or even Boozle’s (although the accuracy of our pets’ projected dates of birth is a HIGHLY regarded issue among the constituents of this jurisdiction). No my friends, today marks the day that I deign to grace the blog with a stir fry recipe. Seems kind of like a long climb for a short slide, eh? But trust that with context comes clarity.
On any given day I might find inspiration for a recipe from visiting a restaurant, flipping through a new cook book, or just letting my senses guide me towards what looks good at the market that day. It all sounds very French for some reason. But I’m not French, and in those moments when inspiration is less artful and more non-existent, I reach out to the people in my life to give me ideas.
Eddie gets the “what should I make for the blog” question a lot. This isn’t too surprising given his proximity to the whole food blog universe at this point (are there spouses of food blogger support groups? Asking for a friend). He has definitely put up some solid suggestions, at least one of which has been acted upon. But the one request that has been asked and not answered several times over is stir fry.
How about stir fry?
We make a lot of quick stir fry dinners around here to be honest. They’re easy, fast, and a great way to mainline a TON of veggies into your system without too much trouble. But somehow I’ve never felt the urge to blog about them. Maybe it was the difficulty in making a pile of cooked stuff in a vaguely brown sauce look good in a photo. Or perhaps I just thought they weren’t exciting enough to feature on the blog. But either way, the neglected stir fry idea kept getting pushed to the back burner of my mind in favor of newer, hotter, more chocolate forward options.
And then I had an epiphany. Well maybe less of an epiphany and more of a DUH moment where I took my head out of the culinary minded clouds and remembered that what I eat, on a regular basis no less, should probably make its way to this site that is called Jo Eats.
Asparagus Mushroom Stir Fry
With it being spring time it only seems fitting that our first stir fry recipe (perhaps of many!) would be focused on what’s in season. Right now the asparagus is gorgeous, plentiful, and the cheapest it will be all year long. And what goes well with our bright, tender, green veg? To me, earthy mushrooms seem like an obvious counterpoint to the overt springiness of asparagus season, and with that we have our primary players.
How to make an amazing stir fry
Before we dive into the particulars of this spring time recipe, let’s just discuss the anatomy of a stir fry real quick and go over a couple hot tips. We’ve handled the veg, but what about the rest?
Like the Boy Scouts – always be prepared
Stir fry is by its very nature a quick cooking dish. But that doesn’t mean you can get lazy with it. Because the cooking part of any stir fry recipe virtually flies by, you need to have your shit together and ready to go BEFORE you get anywhere near a heat source. To prepare your mushrooms just give them a quick wipe with a damp paper towel, discard the stems if you’re using shiitakes (or save them for stock if you’re really just that good at life – I am not), and rip them into bite sized pieces. To prep your asparagus, rinse and pat dry with paper towels and cut off the woody ends (about 1 to 2 inches up should suffice). Once you’ve got the big guys all set you can move on to the support team.
Supporting stir fry squad
Think of these as minor players that will ultimately add flavor and texture to the finished dish but don’t typically make up the bulk of the recipe. Items like nuts, garlic, herbs, and chilis fit squarely into category. In this very simple stir fry I use ginger and sesame seeds for a pungent heat and a subtly nutty crunch. But whatever you choose, I’d stick to two or three max, so things don’t get out of hand. Now that those are handled let’s get saucy.
Stir fry sauce – what brings it all together
Stir fry without sauce is really just sauteed vegetables IMO. You need the sauce to bind all the disparate parts together under one, cohesive, flavor blanket (side note: flavor blankets – worth monetizing?). This one is pretty basic for two reasons. One, I strongly believe that the sauce components should all be pantry items. That way I can restock them every once in a while, and whenever the mood strikes, cobble together dinner using whatever fresh veggies (or frozen for that matter) I have on hand. And two, stir fry sauce ingredients tend to be big on flavor – salty, sweet, acidic, and spicy, so getting too crazy can result in madness – MADNESS!
Regardless of how you flavor it though, one thing is more or less mandatory and that is a touch of cornstarch. Not the sexiest ingredient I know, but it’s the little piece of magic necessary for a silky, glossy, stage five clinger type sauce. And that is exactly what you want. So now…we cook?
Stir frying – fast and hot, but not chaotic
OK yes, now we get to cook. Like I said before, this step really can fly by quite quickly, but we’re not just piling everything in all at once and hoping for the best. So some helpful things to keep in mind…
- Even though it’s all done in one pan, it’s not all done at one time. Veggies don’t all cook at the same rates and so should be spaced out accordingly. Sometimes it makes sense to do things in batches, transferring one thing to a plate while cooking the next (this is especially good if you’re adding chicken or some other protein to the mix), but in this case we’re just staggering the cooking times a bit. We give the mushrooms a few minutes on their own to develop a little color and flavor before adding the asparagus. Then we let those two cook together until just tender, toss in the sauce, and well that’s really it.
- Keep calm and lower your heat just a skosh. Yes, you need heat to develop flavor, color, and to, duh, cook the damn thing. But pushing your stove to its highest limits is both unnecessary and unwise. Medium high heat on most standard cook tops is perfectly capable of producing more than enough power to stir fry whatever you’ve got. Plus you get the added benefit of lessened anxiety and probably not setting off your smoke alarm.
- Stir fry is a bit of a misnomer. Keeping your food in a state of constant motion does NOT lead to faster cooking. Just because you’re being all fancy and cheffy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re cooking very efficiently. Sometimes the best thing to do is let the food do its thing for a hot minute.
So thanks for coming to my Ted talk on stir fry. I realize all of this information could be seen as a little nit picky, but honestly when the dish is so simple the details matter. And if you keep these ideas in mind then I can guarantee your stir fry game will be bangin’ and that you’ll end up generating an endless number of quick and easy weeknight meals to add to your rotation.
But in case you’re starved for more dinner inspiration feel free to check these out in the meantime.
- A comforting, one pan dish that uses *gasp* rotisserie chicken – spring chicken and biscuits
- Breakfast for dinner is always a good idea – sausage and pepper breakfast hash
- Feeling pasta? Creamy vegan roasted garlic rigatoni is your guy
Make one of these? Let me know in the comments if you’re keen.
See ya on Friday! And yes I realize it’s rude to even mention the word when we’re so far from it.Print
Asparagus Mushroom Stir Fry
This zesty, spicy, flavorful stir fry has earthy mushrooms, crisp asparagus, and fiery ginger for a quick weeknight meatless meal that doesn’t skimp on flavor.
- Prep Time: 5 Minutes
- Cook Time: 10 Minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 2 Servings 1x
- Category: Vegetarian
- Method: Stir Fry
- Cuisine: Asian
1 T toasted sesame oil
2 tsp rice wine vinegar, unseasoned
2 T soy sauce
1 T maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice)
1 tsp sriracha
1/4 c water
1 tsp cornstarch
2 T vegetable oil
8 ounces shitake mushrooms, stemmed and torn into bite sized pieces
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 2 inch pieces
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
Sesame seeds to garnish (optional)
Make the sauce by combining the sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup, sriracha, and water in a small bowl. Whisk in the cornstarch until fully incorporated and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add the oil and wait for it to just start smoking. Add the mushrooms and spread into one even layer. Let cook, undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, or until they start to brown on the bottom (this will take less time the more room they have, so if you’re using a smaller pan, just be patient).
Toss in asparagus and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes or until the asparagus is tender, but with a little bite left.
Add the sauce and turn off the heat. Stir to combine.
Serve over rice and garnish with sesame seeds.
If the mushrooms have a lot of room to spread into one even layer they will brown much faster than if they’re on top of each other. So if you have a smaller pan, just be patient. They will probably exude some liquid and look like they’re steaming for a bit, but if you don’t touch them and let the water evaporate, they’ll begin to brown.
Any size asparagus is fine here, but I prefer the thicker stalks for their flavor. If you have pencil thin asparagus, just make sure to check them a little early for doneness, so they don’t go mushy.
Keywords: quick meatless stir fry, vegetarian stir fry, asparagus mushroom stir fry, fast weeknight dinner