Red Curry-Peanut Sauce over Asparagus and Rice
June 14, 2012 § 2 Comments
After a relatively brief hiatus, I am back. And despite the incredibly mild weather (breezy, drizzly and just a bit cloudy – my fave!) out here, it seems that spring has almost given way to summer. The lack of posting over the last month has not been due to a lack of good eats. We have taken to bringing home bunches of radishes and asparagus, pints of strawberries and snap peas and big beautiful heads of greens just to enjoy them in the simplest way possible with little hesitation. Buttered, roasted, raw, raw, vinegar dressed – in that order. While these spring goodies make for delicious and easy meals, they don’t make for great blog posts.
Now, though, we have hit that awkward time of year, “late spring” we call it, when the asparagus is getting chubby and less desirable (to me) and I have just about had my fill of strawberries. There is quite the bounty available so I feel guilty saying so, but I want summer! I want heirloom tomatoes and local peaches. I want a berry that does not begin with the letter “s”. I want bell peppers and eggplants with real flavor. Alas, we are a few weeks away from most of these (many weeks away from others), and I must make do with what’s available.
Despite this rant, I actually do have a few more spring-produce based recipes I am hoping to share before summer hits. Oregon has the best strawberries in the world* so I don’t want to neglect them here. And I still want to talk about radishes and zuchinni before those above items distract me. For now, though, yet another asparagus application. I prepare late asparagus slightly differently from the thin spears I prefer. Rather than a quick roast or saute, I prefer to briefly braise it or steam it for a fully tender product. Here, the asparagus is steamed, but I have made a very similar dish recently where the asparagus is added to the sauce and braised for just a few minutes. Fat spears prepared this way will be fully-cooked, but they will not have the texture you probably enjoyed a month or so ago. Adding varying textures to the asparagus – crunchy peanuts, fluffy rice and a velvety sauce – and preparing it with big flavor will help you enjoy the last weeks of asparagus season while you continue to wait for the tomatoes.
The sauce is obviously what makes this dish. I love peanut butter, but I am super picky about peanut sauces. I don’t like them to taste too peanut buttery or be too sweet, and I find many have both of these characteristics. I also want heat and complexity but I don’t want a huge list of ingredients. Simply by holding back a bit of the sugar and adding fish sauce , I fell in love with this sauce. A quality red curry paste is important; if your local produce lends itself to making it from scratch then it is worth it and I am sure you have access to a great recipe. If you live in a different climate, simply by a jar from the grocery store. I love this local brand. No shame.
*this opinion, which is shared by many, is based on personal bias and the sampling of berries from both coasts. I also believe that if it can grow here, it is best here.
Red Curry-Peanut Sauce over Asparagus and Rice:
sauce comes from She Simmers, with a couple changes mentioned above
– 2 cups short-grain brown rice, soaked for 1-8 hours if time permits
– 2 lb asparagus, woody ends removed and sliced into small pieces on a moderate bias
– 13.5 oz coconut milk (full fat)
– 1/4 cup red curry paste
– 3/4 cup natural peanut butter, or 12 oz ground shelled peanuts
– 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 1 tbsp fish sauce
– 1/4 – 3/4 cup unrefined sugar (evaporated cane juice)
– 1/2 lb shelled peanuts
Strain soaked rice and cover with 4 cups of water in a small pot. Add about a teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil, down to a simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Allow rice to steam for 40-55 minutes (soaking will shorten the cooking time). In the last 2-5 minutes of cooking time (the size of the asparagus will dictate how long it should be steamed), set asparagus in a fine meshed strainer over the rice to steam. Place coconut milk, red curry paste, peanut butter, vinegar and fish sauce in a pot and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Once all ingredients are well-incorporated, taste to season and add sugar 1-2 tablespoons at a time. I used 1/4 cup, but you may prefer more or less. Serve sauce over rice and asparagus and peanuts.