Friday, August 17, 2007

Thai Curry Vegetables

Have you noticed that almost every chicken or meat recipe ends with some statement like “serve with steamed vegetables?” How simple… How boring.

Why is it that the author of the recipe concentrates on making the meat so good, and then tosses out the veggies like they eat themselves? Come on! Who doesn’t eat meat? Meat’s easy. It’s the veggies that no one wants to mess with, right?

When you swing through the drive-thru for that late night emergency meal, do you order a salad and then stress over which meat item tastes better? Nope. Burger please (and no salad, cuz that’s too hard to eat while driving…).

So put the meat on the back burner for a sec, we’ll get to it later. Meanwhile, let’s get some veggies that you’ll want to eat. Deal? Deal.

Ok. This is about the simplest little veggie dish you can make. Tastes great, too. And you can pretty much make any old meat with this and poor these over the top for a great tasting meal.

Not that you care, but did I mention the healthy ingredients? It’s get them, and one’s that you probably might not eat on a regular basis. Coconut milk, for a healthy dose of saturated fat, chili and colorful peppers for antioxidants, olive oil… You get the picture.

Thai Curry Vegetables

Servings: 4

2 chayote squash (I know. Not very Thai-like. Not authentic in the least, but who’s going to know? No one knows what they even are!)

2 bell peppers (preferably red, yellow, or orange, but green’s good, too)

1 tsp olive oil (peanut oil is probably more authentic, but who has that? Whatever…)

¼ cup water (tap is fine)

1 tbsp Thai chili paste (I know you don’t have any. Buy some. It’s good, and lasts a long time)

4 tbsp coconut milk (I freeze the rest in an ice cube tray and add it to my shakes.)

Salt to taste


2 fresh, not dried, basil leaves (If it’s not fresh, it’s not in the recipe, okay?)

¼ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened (but if you’ve got a date over, go for the sweetened if it’s all you got!)

Seed the peppers and cut into bite size pieces.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, then each half in half again, pretty soon, you’ll have eight long skinny pieces. Good job. Now, turn them sideways and cut them into bite size pieces. Make them similar in size to the bell pepper pieces for purely aesthetic reasons.

Heat a covered wok or large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom.

Add the squash pieces and stir to coat. Stir periodically for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Add in the bell peppers and stir for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add the water and cover the pan. Let them steam for 2 minutes.

If you are using the fresh basil leaves, mince them up into very small pieces while you wait. If you’re using dried, put the jar away and don’t waste your time. Dried basil is for spaghetti sauce or something, not Thai Curry Vegetables!

Remove the lid and stir in the chili paste. Stir constantly until the paste has dissolved. Most of the water should be evaporated by now, but if it’s not, let it bubble away for another minute or two.

Pour in the coconut milk and minced basil leaves. Stir thoroughly. Remove from heat and salt to taste. Sprinkle a bit of shredded coconut over the top of each serving. It looks good.

Oh, yeah… Serve over some cooked meat.

If you don’t know how to cook meat, see below.

Cooked Meat

Servings: 4

1 pound of meat, such as boneless pork loin chops, chicken breast fillets, or shelled shrimp

2 tsp olive oil

Salt to taste

With this meat, the simpler the cooking method, the better. You can grill the meat or pan fry it. Just make it simple, since the sauce from the veggies is going to be the highlight. My grill has a burner on the side, so I can do the veggies and meat in the same place.

If you don’t want to grill the meat, use the stove and a skillet that’s large enough to cook all the meat without crowding the pan too much.

The easiest way to cook it in a pan, is to stir fry it.

If you have raw, pealed shrimp, you’re already set. I f you have chicken or pork, then cut the meat into bit size pieces. Cut against the grain, if you can see which way the grain goes. If not, as long as it’s cut…

Heat the skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Swirl to coat. Toss in the meat and stir to coat with oil.

Now, contrary to stir fry lore, you don’t constantly stir the stir fry. Let it sit, then stir. Sit, stir. Repeat. You want to let the meat cook and get lightly browned a bit. So, keep this sit/stir thing up until it’s done cooking. Shrimp cooks really, really fast. Once the shrimp is pink and no longer translucent, it’s done. The chicken or pork needs to cook a bit longer, until it’s no longer pink. Confusing? Write it down.

Add salt, if desired.

The meat is done.

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