Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dinner, in Shades of White

Thank goodness for black sesame seeds.

Tonight I was all alone (Margy didn't even have dinner, or I'd show you hers), and that meant it was either time to order out or time to play around in the kitchen laboratory. After flirting briefly with the former, I did the more fun and more economical thing and went for the latter.

As I peeked in the fridge to see what was up, I was still under the spell of the fried tofu dish made yesterday by my mom's student. Coincidentally, a wedge of fresh tofu was pretty much the only thing I could find besides peanut butter that held the promise of protein. I also had some leftover jasmine rice. I wasn't looking for an elaborate meal, but tofu and rice would need some dressing up.

So as I fried the tofu in a little bit of peanut oil until it colored and crisped up a bit, I mixed some ingredients for an impromptu sauce. I started with a teaspoon or two of Thai green curry paste. It comes in a tiny jar, it keeps forever, it's seriously hot, and it's something I'd hate to do without, though grinding up a fresh curry paste from scratch is high on my list of new things to try.

To the paste I added a bit of shrimp stock, which was in the fridge and needed to be used (canned chicken or vegetable broth would have worked too), plus a bit of fish sauce. I whisked it all around, and though it was a strange color -- a pale brownish green -- I figured it would probably taste pretty good. But I wasn't finished, because even if I reduced this little concoction on the stove, it would have been too thin; I needed a thickener. I ran to the pantry.

Coconut milk!

I scooped the thick, sweet, deliciously rich coco-cream out of the top of the can and heated it in a pan with the sauce, stirring to incorporate everything. The creamy consistency was encouraging. I tasted it. Too salty. More coconut milk, another taste. Better, but still a little salty. I kept adding coconut, a spoonful at a time, to sweeten and thicken the sauce, and a minute later I felt the rush of discovery. A squeeze of lime juice after I removed the pan from the heat, plus another good stir, and the dish was perfect -- a bit monochromatic, but a lot more flavorful than it looks.

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