Sauteed Vegetables with Chile-Tamarind Sauce

The Guajillo (wha-hee-oh) chile is the most common dried chile in Mexico after the Ancho. The flavor of the Guajillo is distinct, slightly fruity with a strong piney, berry under taste. Guajillo flavors dished easily so a little goes a long way. This chile is between a 2-4 on the heat scale of 1-10. Guajillo, combined with the Passilla and Ancho, form the holy trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces.

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1/4 cup tamarind pulp, with seeds
1 cup peeled cubed buttercup squash or kabocha squash
4 dried guajillo chiles
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup finely chopped lemon grass
1 Tbsp. minced shallots
2 tsp. finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. packed lime zest
1 cup canned, unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce
1 Tbsp. golben brown sugar

36 snow peas, strings removed
12 asparagus, cut into 3
5 globe eggplants, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise on a diagonal into 1/2
3 medium zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise on a diagonal into 1/2
4 heads baby bok choy, leaves separated from the base


To prepare the sauce:
Place the tamarind square in a small bowl and cover with the boiling water and let it stand until the pulp softens, breaking it apart occasionally with fork, about 45 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tamarind pulp with seeds to a strainer and set it over a medium bowl. Press the pulp through the sieve, leaving the seeds behind. Measure 2 tsp. of pulp for the sauce, then discard the rest.

Cook the squash in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water until it becomes tender, about 8 minutes, then drain the squash and return to the same saucepan. Mash the squash into a smooth puree.

Cook the guajillo chiles in a medium saucepan of boiling water until they become tender, about 15 minutes, then drain, cool, stem, and seed the chiles. Place the chiles in a blender and add 1/2 cup of water, lemongrass, shallot, ginger, garlic and lime peel. Puree until the chile paste is smooth, then transfer it to a medium saucepan, then whisk in the coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, and 2 tsp. of tamarind pulp. Add the kabocha squash puree and bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking often. Simmer until the sauce slightly thickens and the flavors blend, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.).

To prepare the vegetables:
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it generously. Add the snow peas and cook them just until crisp-tender, about 15 seconds, then using a large slotted spoon, transfer the peas to a colander and rinse with cold water, then drain well. Repeat the cooking, rinsing and draining with each of the remaining vegetable in separate batches in the same pot of boiling salted water until 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 them on a diagonal into thin strips. (The vegetables can be made 2 hours ahead. Let them stand at room temperature.).

Heat the oil in large heavy pot over high heat, then add the vegetables and toss them until heated through, about 4 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

To serve:
Bring the sauce to a simmer and spoon 1/3 of a cup into the center of each of the 6 plates and mound equal portions of the vegetables onto each plate and serve.

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