Recently, I caught a faint whiff of spring. It happened somewhere between the temperature reaching a balmy 45 degrees and the sun shining deliciously on the two feet of snow Mother Nature had dropped a few days prior. Coats were peeled off, gloves tossed aside, hats thrown skyward. Though it was fleeting, there was no mistaking it!
Of course, it’s still very much winter here in Maine, and March is easily my least favorite month, caught as it is between the seemingly endless cold, gray days and the promise of spring that’s just out of reach. I’m still craving hearty comfort foods, but a little voice is telling me that bathing suit season will be here before I know it.
But having caught that wisp of hope, I corralled it straight into the kitchen and translated it into this quick, easy Thai dish, which is warm and filling, but also light and fresh — perfect for these in-between days. With a mild heat from peppers and ginger, a citrusy broth featuring lime and lemongrass, and the creamy sweetness of coconut milk, the flavors in this dish are both balanced and dynamic. And with bright green spinach and cilantro and orange-pink shrimp, it offers a welcome burst of color, too. (If you don’t want to use shrimp, you can substitute chicken, tofu, or white fish instead.) Spoon this curry over a mound of jasmine rice, close your eyes, and breathe deeply: Spring is in the air!
Thai Lemongrass Curry with Shrimp
4 stalks fresh lemongrass, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (white parts only)*
zest and juice of 2 limes
1-inch piece of ginger, outer skin removed
2 red chilis, membranes and seeds removed
1/2 jalepeno (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 pound raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Accompaniment: 2 cups jasmine rice, cooked
To make the curry
Cut off green part of lemongrass and discard. Remove outer layer of lemongrass stalk. Slice remaining part of stalk into coins. Next, cut chili peppers in half lengthwise and remove stem. Carefully cut out membranes and seeds and discard. Meanwhile, cook rice according to directions on box.
Place lemongrass, chili peppers, jalepeno (if using), ginger, and lime zest and juice into a blender or food processor. Blend until all ingredients are incorporated and a thick paste begins to form. Add canola oil and 2 tablespoons coconut milk and blend until mixture is smooth. Set mixture aside.
Next, melt coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the mixture from blender and stir until it becomes fragrant, about two minutes. Stir in remaining coconut milk, fish sauce, and ground coriander. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce to a simmer, and add shrimp. Simmer until shrimp become pink, about 3–4 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until spinach begins to wilt, about 1—2 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Serve over jasmine rice and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy!
*How to buy lemongrass
Lemongrass, which is native to India, is a grass with lemon-scented foliage used for aromatic seasoning in many Asian dishes. It is commonly available at many grocery stores (try Whole Foods) and Asian markets. Choose fresh stalks with a distinct, lemony scent that are pale green and appear tightly layered or wrapped. Avoid stalks that are brown and dried out.
All photos by Kate Filloramo.