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Leftovers: Fried rice is a quickly prepared and filling meal

Fried rice is a versatile dish because accompanying ingredients are to taste.  (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
Fried rice is a versatile dish because accompanying ingredients are to taste. (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

The exhausting month of December brought more local takeout and Costco freezer meals to my kitchen than I would care to admit. With my fridge filling up with leftovers and a husband and kids who were constantly home and always hungry, I needed to get creative – and fast.

One night, after we’d ordered teriyaki chicken and rice from Noodle Express in Spokane Valley – one of our go-to spots – we ended up with a lot of leftover rice. A big pan of rice taking up valuable real estate in my fridge was not my favorite thing.

I dug around in my fridge to see if there was anything else that could help me turn the cold rice into a tasty meal. I found a Tupperware half full of pulled pork, cooked corn on the cob and enough eggs to feed a prairie full of cowboys. It was the perfect ingredient list for a filling weeknight meal that could be prepared quickly: fried rice.

One thing I love about fried rice is that you can pretty much throw in whatever you want. Peas are often used, but I didn’t have any on hand, so I cut the corn off the cobs and added it for a sweet crunch. I threw in edamame because why not? Carrots, peppers, broccoli and cooked meat, it all works once it’s tossed together with that delicious rice and savory soy sauce.

For vegetables that aren’t already cooked or canned, you’ll want to sauté them for a few minutes before mixing them in with the rice so they’re tender and play nice with the rest of the meal. Fried rice works best when cold rice is used. It will still work with freshly made rice, but it might turn out a little mushier.

Using sesame oil to fry the ingredients will add a delicious dimension. Some recipes omit oil and just use butter, which sounds like something I could definitely get behind. Regardless, the flavors and textures are going to knock your socks off. And if this fried rice knocks a few leftovers off your refrigerator shelves in the process, all the better.

Fried rice

Adapted from melskitchencafe.com.

3 eggs

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 green onions, chopped

3 cups cooked, cold rice

2 cups cooked ham or other meat, diced

1 cup peas, edamame, corn or any diced vegetable you want to add

3 tablespoons soy sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and set aside. Heat the sesame oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and let them cook until they start to set, just a few seconds. Turn the eggs with a rubber spatula until mostly cooked and scoot them to the side of the skillet.

If needed, add another teaspoon or two of sesame oil to the skillet. If using raw vegetables, add them to the oil and allow to cook until just tender. Add the garlic and green onion and cook for 20-30 seconds, until sizzling and fragrant. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.

Add the cold rice to the skillet, breaking the rice into clumps. Cook until the rice is sizzling and the clumps start to break into smaller pieces, about 3-4 minutes. Mix the eggs into the mixture.

Add the diced ham and any beans or vegetables that didn’t need to sauté earlier. Stir to combine. Add the soy sauce and stir until evenly incorporated. Cook the fried rice until everything is heated through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.

Serve immediately with additional soy sauce, if desired.

Julia Ditto can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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