All summer temperatures in Houston have been around 100° every day, barely down to 80° at night, and with humidity enough to wade through. As a Coloradoan, enduring the summers here was rough going for a while, but after a few years of biking nearly everywhere in the Bayou City I’ve discovered a growing tolerance to cook-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk temperatures. I’ve always considered myself “cold-blooded” (I still prefer snowy winters and cooler weather) but on a recent trip to Breckenridge the mountain folk traipsed around in sandals and shorts while Aaron and I were laden with sweaters, coats and wool socks.
When it’s warm outside I tend to crave foods spawned in warmer climates – fragrant Moroccan tagines, bright Greek salads, or spicy soups and curries from Central or Southeast Asia. Whatever-is-in-the-fridge salads and cold beers are frequent friends during the April-to-October Summers of Texas.
I make Thai Curries about once a month in the summer. They’re not only easy, but delicious and also serve to use up a fridge full of veggie halves. I’m fond the unique flavor of roasting the vegetables before tossing them in, but the thought of adding the heat of a 400-degree oven to the house is swelteringly unappealing — So to the grill we go!
Having never experienced the pleasure of traveling to Thailand I cannot tell you how my go-to recipe stacks up on authenticity, but I can tell you that it is: wonderfully delicious, easy, cheap, versatile & nearly fool-proof.
1 medium sweet potato, sliced into half-inch thick rounds
1 medium purple sweet potato, sliced into half-inch thick rounds
2 medium summer squash, sliced into half-inch thick rounds
Half of a large red onion, sliced into half-inch thick rounds
4 medium carrots, sliced in half long-ways
2 jalapenos, sliced in half longways, tops, membranes and seeds removed
1 small pineapple, sliced in half-inch rounds, sprinkled with some of coconut sugar
1 bunch of rainbow chard, washed, left whole
Coconut oil to coat lightly
1 lime, cut in half
* This is what veggies I had on hand. We eat a lot of veg and tend to have a decent amount lying around on any day – but you can use whatever produce you love and is in season. Summer and winter squash are equally delicious, sweet potatoes are always glorious, green beans, chickpeas, bell pepper, eggplant — it’s tough to go wrong.
1 tbl coconut oil
.25 c yellow curry paste
1 inch nob of fresh grated/chopped ginger root
2 c full fat coconut milk (one can — do not stir or shake, you want it to have separated)
.5 tsp ground turmeric
1 stock lemongrass
handful basil flowers
handful sweet or Thai basil leaves
1 tbl coconut sugar
1 c black rice
2 c water
1 tsp coconut oil
What to do:
Toss the rice, water and coconut oil into your rice cooker. Turn it on. Or follow directions on the package/bulk bin/internet to cook on the stove.
I preheated the grill to medium, but knocked it down to low when it was time to start cooking. Ours runs hot. Use your good judgement.
Add all the sliced veggies (except the pineapple and red onion) into a big bowl. Toss them using your hands with a tablespoon or two of coconut oil, or enough so they are all lightly coated and don’t stick to the grates.
Now hold up — not everything cooks at the same pace. The squash can be just seared, while the potatoes should have a bit of tasty char and also need to be tender throughout. Poke with a fork (or like a fool with your teeth) to test doneness. Our grill, like most, is hotter at the back, so the things that will take longer went in the back (potatoes, carrots). I loaded it up with roots, squash and chilies, closed the lid and gave it about 10 minutes before checking in. After 10 minutes the sweet potatoes were surprisingly done. Everything was flipped, just to get a sear on both sides, given another few minutes, then put back into the bowl they were in before they went on the grill. Aaron then gave the large pieces a rough chop so they would be more bite-sized.
I turned the grill back up to medium and tossed on the pineapple rounds and and onion let them cook for about 5 minutes on both sides until they had nice marks. Remove. Again Aaron, sous-chef extraordinaire, chopped two pineapple rounds (the rest saved for other uses) and the whole onion into smaller pieces. These were tossed with the rest of the grilled veggies, back into the bowl from whence they came.
Finally, the grill went up to med-high. I grilled the chard, naked (the chard, not me – this is Houston, not Austin) for a few minutes on each side, with the lid open, until they are a bit charred (OK, I’ll stop). Chop ’em up – toss into the bowl.
Now it’s time to make your neighbors jealous.
Quality curry paste is where you need to not be stingy. I have had very little luck with what I’ve found in grocery stores — even good urban grocery stores. You need to go to an Asian market to find the good stuff apparently (this curry paste came from the creatively named Asia Market. I cannot recommend them highly enough). It either comes in small cans, or in a larger bucket and this medium-sized bucket at $2.50, was a steal. Curry pastes are made of fresh chilies, spices and aromatics and make all the difference in the final dish. If you don’t have an Asian market available, there are recipes to make your own online. My favorite is without msg, but with plenty of salt, so it’s okay to skip the S+P seasoning.
Assembling the curry goes pretty quickly, so have everything open and nearby. Heat up a tablespoon of coconut oil to med-high for a minute or two, until hot, but not smoking. Add your curry paste and stir around for 30-60 seconds until your house smells amazing. Add the fresh ginger and turmeric and stir around for a minute more. Slowly [SPLATTER WARNING] add a big pour of the creamy fatty stuff at the top of your can of coconut milk. Stir this all around until it’s uniform, then slowly add the rest of the can. I added about .5 c of water at this point as well. It will all reduce out and leave you with a thick, creamy sauce. Toss in the lemon grass and let it simmer while you’re finishing grilling your veggies. 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
When your veggies are all done grilling and your sauce looks thick (will continue to thicken as it cools), stir in most of the fresh basil (saving some for topping your bowls), and pour the sauce over the bowl of grilled veggies. Toss it all together.
Serve with more fresh basil, grilled lime wedge and black rice. Enjoy!
When we were at the market Aaron suggested we add some protein to the curry, as the rest of the week will surely turn out to be meatless. “Sure, I’ll get some tofu. It’s probably good grilled.”
I forgot the tofu. It was not missed.