Fried Rice with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Parmesan

Fried rice is the epitome of resourcefulness. This recipe is budget-friendly and uses leftovers. There’s no set formula or list of ingredients. Just stir-fry cooked rice and add whatever you like — eggs, vegetables, meat, or seafood — then season it with garlic and soy sauce. In just 10 minutes, this single-skillet/wok meal is ready.

Hailing from East, Southeast, and South Asian cuisine, it has absolutely nothing to do with the vague Italian/Mediterranean terroir of these ingredients, but I have for almost as many years as I’ve made Zucchini, Tomato, and Rice Gratin (from a 2008 Gourmet Magazine, so: many) wished it could be a wildly inauthentic Italian fried rice too. It’s a little bit complicated as it is written: two baking sheets, a pot to cook the rice in, a saute pan to brown the onions, and so on. Then, I have a baking dish in which the gratin is assembled. While the results are worth the effort, this dish only gets made every two years.

This is the weeknight version. The two main approaches to fried rice are to cook the ingredients separately, maintain the distinct flavors, and ensure they reach the perfect color/texture before assembling at the end. Or, you can layer the ingredients in one pan to save time. This was done both ways. The first version, where each component was cooked until it had a brown edge, was unbelievably delicious and hideous. There would be no such thing if this were a food blog without photos. But alas, that’s what it is. It’s a little less difficult to look at, but the flavor is more straightforward. Both were eaten. A delicious, filling bowl of summer comfort foods that I anticipate will become a staple. I think this is what we should all be eating for dinner tonight.

Fried Rice with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Parmesan

It doesn’t matter how you prepare it; the most important thing is to season. I season each vegetable with some salt and pepper to get the best flavor.

I made the eggs in two batches, one with a scrambled egg inside (more child-friendly) and another with a crispy, fried egg atop (hello, ILY).

While I’ve never been in the add-cubed chicken-to-it camp to bulk up a meal, I think it could be excellent if you’re into that. You shouldn’t miss it at all.

I USED THAT METHOD when I made the rice, and I liked it. However, everything else on my stove cooks faster.

Olive oil

One medium-sized sweet onion, diced.

Add red pepper flakes to the mix if you want a little heat.

Three minced garlic cloves

One pound of zucchini or other summer squash, diced (about two small/medium).

Fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped (about one teaspoon)

Half a cup of small red grape or cherry tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices if they are large, or in half if they are tiny.

Rice cooked in short grain, brown or white, 2 1/2 to 3 cups, preferably day-old,

Half a cup of grated Parmesan cheese divided

Handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley

Two large eggs for scrambled eggs or four large eggs to top each portion.

The fastest method: Heated a heavy, large frying pan on medium heat. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil and then the onion. Stirring constantly, cook until the edges are lightly browned, approximately 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the zucchini and thyme. Season well with pepper and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 to 8 minutes, until softened. Add tomatoes, and cook for 1 minute. Add some more oil, then the rice. Add salt and pepper to taste (do you sense a theme?). Stir-fry until well mixed and lightly browned. Season to taste and adjust as needed. Add half of the parmesan cheese and parsley.

The slower way: Heat a heavy, large frying pan on medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add one tablespoon of oil and the onion. Cook, stirring constantly, for five to ten minutes until well browned. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute. Scrape the onion and garlic in a bowl.

Add a further tablespoon of oil to the pan. Spread zucchini evenly on the pan. Cook, without stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until brown spots begin to appear underneath. Stir and flip the zucchini, add thyme, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until it is browned. Add tomatoes and continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape the zucchini and tomatoes in a bowl.

Add another tablespoon of oil and the rice to the pan, pressing it into one layer. Cook for 5 to 7 mins until the rice crisps and browns underneath. Stir it, add salt and pepper, and repeat pressing and crimping for a few minutes. Return the onion/garlic/zucchini/tomatillos to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Stir in half of the parmesan, parsley, and onion.

Both ways, for scrambled eggs: My super lazy method is to push fried rice aside and crack the eggs directly into that cleared area. Use a spatula or fork to smash them and then half-scramble (I prefer them unmixed). Stir the scrambled eggs back into the rice. Top with the remaining parmesan.

Both methods for fried eggs. First, scoop the rice into dishes or plates, and cook them according to your preference (or if you prefer). Top each portion with a finished egg. Top with the remaining parmesan.

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