Monday, July 5, 2010

If You Can't Take the Heat,

...make something else.

It’s hot here. Too hot to do much in the kitchen except sip iced coffee and complain about the heat. Last week, I took advantage of my husband’s absence and cooked as little as possible for myself and the kids. I made a few meals that were each followed by the highly ceremonial Much Reheating of Leftovers.

Eventually, even I got tired of seeing the same stuff. And I knew that my hubby would be especially appreciative of a home-cooked meal after eating restaurant food for a week. (An aside: you can trick people into thinking that you’re a better cook than you really are by cooking for them when they’re REALLY hungry). So I wanted to make something really tasty but without heating up the kitchen.

The answer to this problem? Thai-style garlic shrimp. There’s a bit of prep work involved, but the actual cooking goes really, really fast. The stovetop was on for less than five minutes. I served the shrimp with rice made in the rice cooker (another trick to keeping the kitchen cool) and that cucumber salad that usually accompanies satay (because we also got a cucumber in the CSA box this week). You could also serve a simple green salad, or this Thai-style slaw.

These recipes come from Real Thai: The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking by Nancie McDermott. It’s the first Thai cookbook I bought and remains my go-to whenever I’m in the mood for Thai food. Which hasn’t been very often, of late; I’ve been so wrapped up with learning Korean food that I neglected my first love. The Cilantro Pesto is a great recipe; although I use it often in a marinade for grilled chicken, tonight was the first time I’d tried it with shrimp. Since you can scale up the recipe to make a big batch of pesto, it’s also useful for when you get a big, beautiful bunch of cilantro in your CSA box.

Goong Gratiem (Garlic Shrimp)
From Real Thai by Nancie McDermott

Nancie says, “Thais make this dish with a lot of oil and enjoy it as a savory sauce for rice, but you could make it with just enough oil to keep everything from sticking or burning and still have a tasty dish.”

Karen says, if you want to get out of the kitchen completely, you can grill the shrimp. Just rub them with the pesto and a bit of oil right before you cook them.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons Cilntro Pesto
1 tablespoon fish sauce
A few fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Heat a wok or medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the surface. When the oil is very hot but not smoking, add the shrimp and stir-fry until they begin to color on both sides, about 1 minute. Add the pesto and stir-fry until it coats the shrimp and begins to cook, about 1 minute. Add the fish sauce and toss the shrimp for another 15 seconds to mix it in. Transfer the shrimp and sauce to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the cilantro leaves and serve. (2-3 main-dish servings).

Rahk Pahk Chee-Gratiem-Prik Thai (Cilantro Pesto)
from Real Thai by Nancie McDermott

Nancie says, “This simple combination of three intense Southeast Asian flavors is a classic seasoning of Thai cuisine…You may find yourself noticing new ways to use it, tossed with hot poasta or new potatoes, stirred into stocks, or dolloped on soups.”

Karen says, you can make this with a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor. Or sometimes I chop everything roughly on a big wooden cutting board, then get out a meat mallet and whack away at it. It makes a bit of a mess but is much more fun.

1 teaspoon whole white or black peppercorns [or ~1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper]
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro roots or leaves and stems
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic

Using a mortar and pestle or a spic grinder, crush or grind the peppercorns to a fine powder. Combine the pepper, cilantro roots, and garlic and work the 3 ingredients into a fairly smooth paste in the mortar on in a small blender or food processor. If you use the blender or food processor, you may need to add a little vegetable oil or water to ease the grinding.

Makes about ¼ cup. Note: To increase the amount to 1 cup of pesto, use 1 tablespoon of peppercorns, ½ cup cilantro roots, and ½ cup garlic. Put it in a glass jar, pour a little oil onto the surface to cover it and close the jar. It will keep nicely for about 1 week in the refrigerator.

Cucumber Pickles
from...oh, you know by now where it's from

¼ cup white vinegar [I used rice wine vinegar]
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 large cucumber, peeled, cut lengthwise and seeds removed, then sliced ¼” thick
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped shallot or purple onion [or any onion]
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh hot chili [or a dash or dried chili flakes]
1 tablespoon finely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
A few fresh cilantro leaves

Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Just before serving time, peel and slice the cucumber. Combine the cucumber slices with the vinegar dressing, shallot, and chilies and divide between 2 serving bowls. Sprinkle each serving with peanuts and garnish with a few leaves of cilantro. [Karen’s note: I served it family-style and skipped the peanuts]

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