Here’s what it’s currently too hot to do in my neck o’ the woods:
- Move more than five feet away from the couch
- Which is then gross, because you spend all your time sweating into your couch
- I hate summer
But a girl’s gotta eat, and for a hungry girl like me that ain’t no joke.
For the last few days I’ve been craving some sort of vaguely Asian-ish food that isn’t as heavy or fried or sugary as Americanized Chinese food can be, and I haven’t been willing to hit up a restaurant because I’m a) a little tired of the local restaurants (remember, I live in a small town, so local restaurants are limited) and b) who wants to put on pants when it’s this hot?
I dug through some cookbooks because yesterday was “avoid the computer for the bulk of the day” day and found a recipe for potato-spinach Thai curry and I really only needed a few things that could be acquired with a trip to the grocery store. Said trip was more like a covert raiding party–get in, get the stuff, get back home and into the AC before dissolving into a puddle of lip balm and flip flops–but it got the job done, sticky humid heat be damned.
It’s remarkable I survived in Texas.
Anyway. Here’s what I used.
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 1/2-inch ginger, finely chopped (or galangal if you have access to it, which I do not so purists, give me a break because I have to work with the resources available)
- 1 piece of lemongrass, finely chopped
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp Thai red curry paste
- 1 jalapeno (optional)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric (be careful not to get this on your clothes or they’ll be yellow forever)
- 1 can coconut milk (I highly recommend using “light” coconut milk; the taste is still rich, but it cuts nearly 2/3 of the fat and calories that you’d get from regular coconut milk)
- 1 large potato, up to 1 lb, cut in 3/4 inch cubes
- Enough vegetable stock to make your sauce the consistency you’d like
- 2 tsp honey/brown sugar/agave nectar
- 7 oz spinach/arugula/chard/whatever kind of leafy green you prefer, but if you use something with a tougher rib (chard, kale) make sure the rib is removed
- Juice from 1/2 lime
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- Oil, salt, pepper…the usual suspects
- Cilantro, thinly sliced shallots, and crumbled unsalted peanuts for garnish (all entirely optional)
First: Thinly slice your onions and start their browning. You don’t need to pay relentless attention to them, just show them some love and give them a stir every so often. They’ll take a while to caramelize so you should start them early but because they’re a garnish, once they’re browned they can sit quietly on the sidelines until you’re ready to eat.
Look at that, you’ve already got part of it started!
Next, get your spices ready. The cookbook says to finely chop the garlic, lemongrass and ginger/galangal and grind them together with the coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle until they’re a smooth paste.
But here’s the thing: that’s a ton of work. I only had arm enough to take it so far before I decided I was through and declared it “uh…yeah, sure…that’s smooth”, though I did make sure that at least all of the coriander seeds were crushed open and fragrant. So if you neeeeeeeed to process this into a paste and have the appropriately sized food processor then by all means do so. Otherwise, just crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle and finely chop the rest.
Cut your jalapeno in half and seed it if you want, or cut it into thin slices with the seeds fully attached, depending on how much heat you want. (Or leave out the jalapeno entirely, it’s your kitchen!) From here, the recipe progresses pretty quickly. Saute the garlic-ginger-lemongrass-coriander seed combination and jalapeno at a medium heat for 30 seconds or so, to create a nice base. Add the curry paste and the turmeric and let them cook for a minute or two, then add the coconut milk. You can add as much coconut milk as you’d like so long as you put in at least half the can; I put in the whole can because what the heck am I going to do with leftover coconut milk? However much you put in, stand back in amazement as the half teaspoon of turmeric totally wins over two teaspoons of red chili paste in the battle for color-of-the-curry supremacy. Bring it to a boil.
Hey, how are those onions doing? Don’t forget to check them.
Once it’s rolling along, add the potatoes, the honey and some veggie stock. I used one of those box-stocks and probably put in about a cup’s worth. I wouldn’t recommend getting too stock-crazy because you do want the sauce to have some body to it; you’re making curry, not soup. Let the potatoes simmer for a few minutes; check them at 10 minutes and I’d be surprised if you need to let them cook as long as 15. While they’re cooking, clean and chop your cilantro and shallots and shell your peanuts.
When the potatoes are nearly tender, add in your choice of leafy green–I used spinach and arugula–and let them wilt into the curry. Check your seasonings and add salt (or if you’re feeling completely devil-may-care, soy sauce) and pepper to taste. Finish with the juice from a half a lime. Top each individual serving with onions, cilantro, raw shallots and peanuts, as you will.
We mixed our ethnic foods at the table (see: devil-may-care) and served this with chapatis, sauteed asparagus and a salad with blackberry vinaigrette. Healthy. Delicious. Really easy. And it’s flexible! If you want to make this with chicken, just saute some chicken before adding the ginger-garlic mix, and then follow the above. Saute the garlic-ginger in the chicken drippings for extra yum, and use chicken stock instead of vegetable. Or toss in some tofu at the end if you want to both incorporate a protein and keep it vegetarian. Whatever, it’s all good.
Enjoy! See you ’round the kitchen!