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Dinner in 35 minutes: Stir-Fried Beef, Zucchini and Sweet Onions

Stir-Fried Beef, Zucchini and Sweet Onions. Illustrates ONTHEFRIDGE (category d), by Bonnie S. Benwick (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Monday, May 5, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

Stir-Fried Beef, Zucchini and Sweet Onions. Illustrates ONTHEFRIDGE (category d), by Bonnie S. Benwick (c) 2014, The Washington Post. Moved Monday, May 5, 2014. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)

Brys Stephens left Washington in 2009 to reconnect with his Charleston, S.C., roots. Two years earlier, he had co-founded Cookthink.com, quickly garnering acclaim for an innovative recipe search tool that combines the craving for a particular ingredient, a cuisine, a cooking technique/course and a mood. (Example: mascarpone + Italian-American + brunch + pampering = White Gazapacho With Mint and Apple, plus other recipes.)

In his new cookbook, The New Southern Table, Stephens stirs his worldly cooking experience into Southern favorites in an effortless way. Okra inherits Greek seasoning and feta; hummus relies on lima beans; and watermelon is served the Sicilian way: as a jelled pudding with pistachios and mint.

This recipe highlights zucchini’s surprising affinity with beef and its ability – even when thinly sliced – to remain moist in a stir-fry environment. Bits of basil added at the end are an inspired, zucchini-friendly touch as well. Stephens calls for a sprinkling of black sesame seeds as a garnish, but the dish tastes and looks great without them.

Serve with a first course of steamed vegetable dumplings or pot stickers.

STIR-FRIED BEEF, ZUCCHINI AND SWEET ONIONS

8 ounces very thinly sliced (raw) beef filet or lean steak

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1-inch piece fresh ginger root

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon Chinese black bean sauce

2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon sambal oelek or other Asian chili sauce

1 tablespoon shaoxing wine or dry sherry

3 tablespoons water, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 sweet onion

2 medium zucchini

1 tablespoon canola oil

3 to 5 basil leaves

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (optional)

Season the meat well with salt and pepper. Let it rest while you peel and mince 1 teaspoon of the ginger and mince the garlic. Place those two ingredients in a small bowl along with the black bean sauce, soy sauce, sambal oelek or chili sauce, wine or sherry, the 3 tablespoons of water and the cornstarch. Whisk to form a smooth, thin sauce.

Thinly slice the onion. Cut the zucchini crosswise into thin rounds.

Heat half of the oil in a wok or large, heavy nonstick skillet over high heat. Pat the meat dry with paper towels.

Once the oil shimmers, add the beef and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until browned. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining oil to the wok or skillet, along with the onion and zucchini. Stir-fry for 2 to 4 minutes or just until the zucchini begins to brown. Add a splash of water, then stir-fry for 2 or 3 minutes; the onion and zucchini should be tender.

Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the wok or skillet; stir-fry for 1 minute to warm the meat through, then add the sauce. Stir-fry for 1 or 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Remove from the heat.

Tear the basil leaves (to taste), letting them fall into the stir-fry mixture. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, if using.

Serve hot.

Makes 2 servings.

Adapted from “The New Southern Table,” by Brys Stephens

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