Sauteed Vegetables with Chile-Tamarind Sauce
Ingredients: The sauce: a 2″ square tamarind with seeds* (from 7 oz. block) 1 cup peeled cubed kabocha squash 4 dried guajillo chiles** 1/2 cup water 1/4 cup finely chopped lemongrass (bottom 1-1/2″ of about 4 peeled stalks) 1 Tbsp. minced shallot 2 tsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 tsp. […]
a 2″ square tamarind with seeds* (from 7 oz. block)
1 cup peeled cubed kabocha squash
4 dried guajillo chiles**
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup finely chopped lemongrass (bottom 1-1/2″ of about 4 peeled stalks)
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
2 tsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. (packed) grated lime peel
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce (nam pla)***
1 Tbsp. golden brown sugar
36 snow peas, strings removed
12 (3″ long) asparagus tops
3 medium zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise on diagonal into 1/2
4 heads of baby bok choy, leaves separated from base
1/4 cup vegetable oil
For the sauce:
Place the tamarind square in a small bowl and cover it with boiling water. Let it stand in the water until the pulp softens, breaking it apart occasionally with a fork, about 45 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tamarind pulp with its seeds to a strainer and set it over a medium bowl. Press the pulp through a sieve, leaving the seeds behind. Measure out 2 tsp. of pulp for the sauce (discard the remaining pulp).
Cook the squash in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the squash, then return to the same saucepan and mash it into a smooth puree.
Cook the guajillo chiles in a medium saucepan of boiling water until they are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool, then stem and deseed the chiles. Place the chiles in a blender and add the 1/2 cup of water, lemongrass, shallot, ginger, garlic and lime peel. Puree until the chile paste is smooth. Transfer the paste to a medium saucepan and whisk in the coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar and 2 tsp. of tamarind pulp. Add the kabocha squash puree and bring the sauce to a simmer, whisking often. Simmer until the sauce has slightly thickened and the flavors blend, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt. (The sauce can be made 3 days ahead of time. Cover and chill.)
For the vegetables:
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the snow peas and cook them just until crisp-tender, about 15 seconds. Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the peas to a colander and rinse with cold water. Drain well. Repeat the cooking, rinsing and draining with each remaining vegetable in separate batches in the same pot of boiling salted water until all the vegetables are just crisp-tender, about 1 minute for the asparagus, about 3 minutes for the eggplant and zucchini, and about 1 minute for the bok choy leaves. Pat the snow peas dry and cut on a diagonal into thin strips. (The vegetables can be made 2 hours ahead of time. Let the vegetables stand at room temperature.)
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over high heat. Add the vegetables and toss until heated through, about 4 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.
Bring the sauce to a simmer and spoon 1/3 of a cup into the center of each of 6 plates. Mound 1/16 of the vegetables on each plate and serve.
*Tamarind is a legume with large brown seedpods. The pulp is used in Indian, Thai, Caribbean, and Latin American cooking. The pulp is sold in block form and is available at Indian markets. **Guajillo chiles are maroon-colored, fairly hot dried chiles up to 6″ long and 1-1/2″ wide. Available at Latin American markets and some supermarkets. ***Found at Asian markets and in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets.
Recipe by Chef Arun Sampanthavivat, Aruns, Chicago, IL, as it appeared in Bon Appetit Magazine, September 2003.