Spring has sprung into a curry

11 Apr

I’m new at blogging and new at food writing.  So the other week, I sent my blog to a test audience to get some feedback: am I on the right track or should I perhaps consider a new hobby, like knitting? Luckily no one said knitting. I am not handy with a needle or anything resembling a needle. I nearly failed the sewing portion of home ec. And I still have a box with the jaunty, encouraging title of “knit that funky boa!” in the corner of my closet. But I digress. Along with the words of encouragement, came a request from my friend Laura. In cleaning out her cabinets for Passover like a good Jew (not like me and Ben, who just pretend that those boxes of pasta and rice aren’t there), she came upon some unused coconut milk. And she’s not quite sure what to do with it.  Coconut milk is pretty fattening so it’s not something I reach for every day but once in a while it’s nice. I tend to use it in soups (I’ve done Indian-spiced carrot and Thai-spiced sweet potato) or in Thai curries. I first attempted a Thai curry when we lived in Israel. There was a great Asian store on the corner near my first apartment in Tel Aviv that had all manner of exotic ingredients that were new to me and spurred my cooking curiosity. And the sweet Thai women who worked there would always hand out recipes so I had some clue of how to use said ingredients. When I moved in with Ben in Haifa, I quickly found my source for interesting, non-kosher items. They happened to carry a brand of Thai curry paste that I recognized from my Tel Aviv shop so one day I gave it a go. This curry paste helpfully had a basic recipe on the back, which I followed for my first attempt at a curry.  This proved to be a huge mistake. This was not curry paste for the Western palate. This was curry paste straight from Thailand. And both I and Ben soon realized that we should be careful when bragging about our ability to tolerate heat. Clearly a Thai person would roll on the floor laughing. Why? Because we cried that night. Fat tears streamed down our bright-red faces as we tried to consume this hellish concoction I so proudly ladled out. We ran to the refrigerator and dumped in every dairy product we could find: yogurt, labane, white cheese–they all went in to my now nowhere-close-to-authentic Thai curry just so we could choke it down. I find this same paste in certain Asian markets in California as well and have long since learned to check my pride at the stove and put in much less than recommended.

For this curry, I wanted it to reflect my delight that spring, with its  jasmine-scented air, blue skies and sun, has returned. I have no idea if they would ever eat this combination in Thailand but taking creative license is part of the fun of cooking. Asparagus season is in full swing so that’s the star. I’m also adding green garlic, leeks,  pea shoots and mushrooms. I planned on addding tofu for protein but then I saw scallops at the market. I’m a sucker for scallops. If you’re not or if they don’t fit into your diet, tofu would be great. I’m sure chicken would work too but I cannot give any tips on that. You’d probably end up with salmonella.

On that delightful note, here’s how to put some spring into your curry:

Note:  If you can’t find some of these ingredients, just leave them out or make substitutions. The curry paste is already flavorful and if you want a bit more zing, you can substitute some lime zest for the lime leaves, regular basil for the Thai basil (or just use another herb like cilantro or mint), spinach for the pea shoots, etc.

Spring Asparagus and Scallop Curry

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 stalk green garlic, minced

1 big leek, white and light green parts cut into rings

1 bunch of asparagus, woody bits discarded, cut into 1 inch pieces

1-2 cups cremini mushrooms, quartered

6-8 kaffir lime leaves

3/4 lb bay scallops

5 oz pea shoots

Handful Thai basil

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp green curry paste (add or subtract based on how spicy you want your curry)

1 can coconut milk (you can use low fat but it’s not quite as good)

1 1/3  c veggie broth or water

Juice of one lime

1 tbsp canola oil

1) Saute garlic and green garlic in the canola oil over medium high heat for about 30 seconds-1 minute (be careful it doesn’t burn).

2) Add your curry paste and cook a minute or two.

3) Add the coconut milk, half of the lime leaves, roughly torn, fish sauce, broth and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer.

4) Add the leeks, cook until they start to soften, then add the mushrooms and asparagus and cook until tender yet still have a bite to them.

5) Add the scallops and pea shoots and cook just a minute or so until the scallops are cooked through.

6) Stir in the Thai basil, remaining lime leaves, shredded, and juice of one lime.

7) Season to taste and serve with rice (Jasmine rice is nice but if you don’t have any, as I didn’t, regular brown or white rice will work fine. I threw some ginger,  lemon grass, lime leaves and garlic into my rice as it cooked to add some interest.)




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