Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tilapia and vegetables in coconut chowder

This is a quick, colorful, super healthy weeknight dish. And infinitely adaptable to what you have laying around the kitchen and don't know what to do with, much like my frittata recipe. In this case, I had a handful of snow peas, half a red bell pepper left from a moderately successful peperonata experiment, couple of fingerlings, chunk of butternut, and a lonely old carrot. It's also easy on the dishes, only two pots! If your two-legged dishwasher is anything like mine, they'll be psyched.

And a few leaves of basil to tie it all together. Thai basil would be ideal and I will plant it again in the garden this year, but this is regular ole Genovese and it was just fine.

1 Thai chili, minced (seeds removed if it's going to be too hot for you)
1/2 an inch or so of ginger, minced or microplaned
1 garlic clove, minced or microplaned
1/4 a yellow onion, finely diced
handful of snow peas
half a red bell pepper, julienned
2 or 3 fingerling potatoes, cut into small rounds
chunk of butternut squash, cut into cubes the same size as the potatoes
lonely old carrot, diced finely
1 can coconut milk (I generally use the "light" one)
~1-2 cups of vegetable broth
~2 tsp green curry paste
zest of 1 lime
few dashes of fish sauce (don't chicken out, it's non-negotiable for authenticity - and, it is salty awesomeness)
few pinches of brown sugar
2 tilapia fillets
4 or 5 basil leaves, torn or julienned

1/2 cup of white or jasmine rice
sprinkle of cilantro

My white rice technique is pretty simple. I have never trusted the add-double-the-water thing where you just clamp a lid on and never stir, for me it always turns out gummy and stuck on the bottom. So I cook my rice in plenty of salted water and drain into a metal sieve just before it's cooked through. Then I pop the whole sieve back into the pot with a little water on the bottom, put it back on the heat, then clamp a lid on and let it steam for a few minutes. Voila, gorgeous fluffy rice every time. Anyway, yeah - do this.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, saute the chili, ginger, garlic, and onion in a drizzle of vegetable oil. Once the onion has softened, add your potatoes, squash, and carrot and allow to cook for a minute before adding the coconut milk, vegetable stock, green curry paste, lime zest, fish sauce, and brown sugar. I was careful to only add a little green curry paste since I didn't intend this to be a curry. It functions more as a seasoning here. Fish sauce is mad salty, so you may not need to add much more kosher salt for seasoning - just taste it as you go along. Ditto for pepper, considering the Thai chili. Cover and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, then add the red bell pepper, snow peas, and dunk the fillets right into the sauce, thinning with more vegetable broth if necessary. Cover again and let the fillets cook, probably another 7 or 8 minutes. Once everything has cooked through, stir in the basil.

Serve your lovely coconut fish and vegetable chowder in a wide shallow bowl with a scoop of rice and sprinkle of cilantro on top.

Serves 2, takes half an hour.

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