Tomato, Squash, Cucumber Fried Rice

It's been nearly 10 years since I ordered Fried Rice at a local Asian restaurant, looked at all the obvious ingredients in the pile of food, and thought to myself, "This does not look difficult to make on my own." Fried Rice is one of my favorite foods, and it really seemed like all I needed was some vegetables, eggs, rice, and soy sauce. I bought a Rice Cooker, a gigantic pan, and the ingredients. And it really was just that easy. Vegetables first, add eggs, add rice, add soy sauce.

It's pretty much my "go-to" meal in the kitchen, and over the past 10 years I've come up with some good combinations of ingredients and sauces that compliment each other pretty well. I started experimenting with some new ingredients over the past few months, and the results have turned out pretty well.

Squash (particularly Acorn Squash) seasoned with a little honey and pepper makes for a bold flavor all around. Fried tomatoes add a rich earthy, flavored tone to the mix. And cucumbers are damn refreshing in almost everything you mix them with. So, I decided to mix all 3 together and see what would happen.

Ingredients

Overall Ingredients include rice, eggs, tomato, cucumber, acorn squash, onion, and red pepper. Along with a little butter, some balsamic vinegar, some honey, pepper, oil (in this case canola oil), and soy sauce. For soy sauce, I'm using a combination of the citrus stuff, Ponzu, and some organic brand.

Before doing any of the cooking, we need to prepare the rice, and the squash.

Overall, the amount of ingredients I'm going to use should feed about 4 people, or 2 super hungry people.

Rice Preparation

The rice is pretty damn easy. I used 2 cups of rice this time since I was cooking for more than just me. Be sure to wash the rice thoroughly to remove any dust and dirt that has collecting in the bag. Clean rice gives a totally pure taste. If you don't wash your rice, it ends up tasting somewhat muddy, and tainted.

Anyway, 2 cups of rice, add the proper amount of water, and shove that into your rice cooker. It usually takes about 40 minutes. Rice cookers are pretty nice. Most modern rice cookers will automatically switch to a warming mode, so you can keep your rice sitting in there for almost a day later.

I've had my rice cooker since studying abroad in Japan, and I have found it VASTY superior to any western/American made one I've had in the past. Most American models are designed to make 5+ cups of rice at once, but totally fail if you want to make a single cup of rice. You can find a lot of the Japanese models on Amazon, totally in English, if you're interested in getting a really good one.

Here's the exact model I have, but in English : Sanyo ECJ-S35K

Or, you can just skip the rice cookers, and make rice the old fashion way with a pot on the stove. But rice turns out perfect every time with mine, even after 5 years.

Acorn Squash Preparation

For Acorn Squash, I prefer baking them.

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, and actually WAIT for it to get to 400 degrees. Usually, I just turn it to 400 degrees and then throw them in there, but the low heat will quickly dry out the insides of the squash. It must be exposed to the full heat in order for it to actually cook, and turn out perfectly.

2. Cut your Squash straight down the middle.

3. Remove all the seeds with a spoon, and, basically, hollow it out. You could save the seeds, and cook them separately if you like. :)

4. Coat the exposed areas with some butter. The butter is mostly used to keep the surface of the squash from drying out too quickly before it actually starts cooking. The flavor is a nice touch, but there are probably slightly healthier options.

5. Cover the rim with a tiny ring of honey. This also keeps the surface wet while cooking, but adds a sliver of sugar for kick.

6. And add a tiny couple of drops of Balsamic vinegar.
7. I put a little pepper in there, too.

I think I added just the right amount. That may look like a lot, but that's because the angel is a little different in both pictures. You could add as little, or as more as you like. Or, you could add any other ingredients you want. I try to avoid adding salt, as we'll be adding soy sauce to everything later on. And too much salt is not really good for you.

8. Put that pan in the oven (fully heated for 400 degress) for about 45 minutes. Or until the squash is nice and gooey.

9. After the time is up, remove the squash from the oven. After it's done, it might look a little like this.

All that residue collected in the squash can be removed because it's basically just sugary waste at this point.

10. Remove all the yellow gooey squash from it's disgusting outer shell.

Fried Rice Recipe

1. Add a bit of oil to your pan. Not too much, as the calorie count climbs pretty fast with the more you use. With this recipe, use about a tablespoon's worth.

2. Flip the stove top to about a 6. I'm using a gas stove, so 6 is pretty powerful as is. With drier ingredients, I tend to use more heat. But with several wet ingredients I want to slowly burn off the liquids and let them soak into the mix.

3. Dice up a tomato, and toss it into the pan. The tomato should go first because it's the wettest ingredient, and needs a little more cooking than the rest. Let it settle for a little while and burn off some of the juice.

4. Dice up some onion, and add that. I only used about a quarter of that onion shown above.

5. Dice up some red pepper, and add that. I used half of the red pepper shown above.

6. Dice up the cucumber, and toss that in the pan. The cucumber should really be the center-piece of taste in the mix, and doesn't need a lot of cooking for the flavor to punch through.

Though, in my example shown, I think I cooked everything together a little too long before getting to the next step.

7. Next, I seasoned the concoction with some pepper.

8. Then, I added the squash on top of everything, and mix mix mix.

9. With all the ingredients mixed together, it's time to add eggs. For a single(ish) meal, I usually use 2 eggs, but since I'm cooking for more, I'm adding 4 eggs into the mix.

These eggs are supposed to be beaten before adding, but I usually just make enough space in the middle of everything, and I beat them in the pan. Let the eggs cook a little bit, and harden.

And, then mix everything together, again

I let it sit for a little while, and let the eggs continue to cook before the next step. That way the eggs form their own solid entity apart from the rice.

10. Next step, is adding the rice to the mix

Mix mix mix.

11. Next step, is adding a little bit of soy sauce. As mentioned before, for this recipe I'm using that citrus soy sauce, and some organic soy sauce.   There are somewhat lighter, both in color and in salt, than actual soy sauce.  Because of the color it can be hard to gauge if you're adding too much.

Generally, I just run a spritz of each across the top. Which might be about a combined quarter cups worth of sauce.

12. Continue to mix everything together, and move it around the pan so everything gets heated, and cooked.

You don't want it to be too wet. You want to have parts of it solid, and distinct. I think I messed up a little bit with eggs. The squash is pretty much a liquid when I added it. I probably should have used only 2 eggs for the amount I was making, instead of 4. I continued to cook this quite a bit longer than I usually do, but the amount was too great, and it started solidifying together with the more heat I added.

So, whatever, it's all done.

It might be a little chunky, but it's still good :)

Overall, I would add less eggs, and not cook the cucumber so much, but I could still taste all 3 of my main flavors that I put into this. They are pretty harmonious.
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As I mentioned before, this is the basic recipe for any type of fried rice. Just mix and match any of the ingredients in the earlier steps. Typically the order is meat -> vegetables -> eggs -> rice -> sauce -> seasoning.

I didn't use any seasoning (aside from some pepper mixed in here and there) with the above recipe because the flavors of the ingredients are meant to stand on their own.

If I'm making plain old fried rice with only onions and peppers, I'll add in some of this stuff.

The sesame / seaweed mix goes a LONG way, so if you find some of this stuff, don't use too much in one sitting. It's very very salty too.




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