Monday, January 23, 2012

How Whole Foods Screwed Me. Again.

Sometimes I happen upon a recipe that looks so good, I know, I just know, I have to go home and make it the same night. That happened today.

I subscribe to a lot of magazines. I like to read them on planes. And I seem to find myself in lots of planes. I also like to read them on the bike at the gym. Ideally, I also have music in my ears and a tv to glance up at while reading my magazine on the bike. I need lots of distractions when I'm working out. I honestly don't understand the people I see by Crissy Field who are running without music. Is James Earl Jones in their heads, reading them a story?

When I say I subscribe to "a lot" of magazines, I mean about eight. Or ten. Maybe twelve. I'm not sure how many. Lots. Fewer than I have pairs of shoes, more than I have umbrellas. This morning on the bike I was reading Sunset Magazine which sometimes makes me feel middle-aged, but I have to admit, I kind of love reading articles about "how to live in the West." I live partly vicariously through the bounty of gardening articles...oh, someday, someday this wannabe farm girl will get to plant stuff that's not in a pot.

This morning, I ran across a recipe for the rather dully-named "Thai Chicken and Noodle Curry." I swooned. It had those great big noodles - rice noodles! - that I love. And Panang curry paste. And coconut milk. I practically drooled on the bike console.

I was so excited about making this recipe that I actually had the magazine opened to the big glamour shot of my intended dinner all day while I was at work. 

I think I may have temporarily been in love.

This was taken at home, obviously. My desk at work isn't black granite, nor does it feature an orange colander. What it actually features is a light maple-esque laminate and a LOT of PowerPoint decks and scribbled notes.

I bolted from the cable car at Van Ness with a spring in my step, and not just because I had the pleasure of sitting next to a woman who had clearly imbibed a significant quantity of beer, perhaps an entire keg, earlier in the day. Trust me, I went to Duke and Kellogg. I am well familiar with the smell of stale beer on someone's breath. Yuck.

I had my list all prepped, I found a basket, I was ready to shop. Veni, vidi, vici. Or so I thought.

And then Whole Foods screwed me.

I am, most of the time, incredibly grateful that I live only a block from a clean, well-lit, orderly grocery store that has lots of local produce, lots of organic and sustainable products, and a really fine selection of cheese. That said, it drives me NUTS that I often can't find what I am looking for at Whole Foods. Have you ever noticed that the checkout people at Whole Foods never, ever ask if "you found everything ok?" Yeah. That's because NO ONE ever finds everything there. Tonight was a classic example.

Here was my list (truly, this is copied and pasted from the "Groceries" note in my phone):

Wide rice noodles
Panang curry paste
Coconut milk
Fish sauce
Thai basil
Green beans

Here are all the things on the list I was unable to buy at my local Whole Foods:

Chicken - Ok, this isn't Whole Foods' fault, entirely. I decided to use shrimp instead of chicken. However, they did not have the shrimp I was looking for, so only half a point for them.

Wide rice noodles - Nowhere to be found. I ended up using rice I had at home, totally deflating my dream of wide noodles, which I love. Oh, I have already mentioned that?

Panang curry paste - Not even close! I settled on a green curry paste, but I really wanted Panang. Sad.

Thai basil - Ha. I know, I'm a comedian. Did I seriously think Whole Foods would have Thai basil? No. I bought regular basil. Eh, whatever.

You'll notice that it's hard to make a Panang curry with wide noodles without, oh, the curry or the wide noodles.


I'm not even close to being an expert in Thai cooking and all these substitutions were making me a little nervous. Because in addition to the ingredients that Whole Foods didn't have, I decided to also add vegetables to the recipe and remove the garlic and shallots called for in place of the green part of some scallions which fit the bill because I had them at home and I can eat them without getting sick. That is what we call a two-fer.

Yeah. So I was nervous. Then I realized that I was only cooking for myself and so it was totally ok to cross my fingers and make this up and if the end result sucked, well, I've got a box of Annie's wheat-free Mac & Cheese in the cupboard. Let's do this.

Kate's Thai-ish Shrimp Green Curry

Adapted with many liberties from this recipe.
Makes 2 servings

1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 zucchini, trimmed and sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced scallions, green parts only
1 heaping tablespoon green curry paste
1 cup coconut milk, divided (I used the light kind, which worked fine, but if you are up for the fat, get the good stuff)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons  lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce, ideally reduced-sodium
1 1/2 teaspoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce

8 ounces shrimp, peeled, and deveined if you're fussy
1/2 cup cilantro leaves and small sprigs
1/2 cup Thai basil* leaves and small sprigs
1 lime, cut into wedges

Accompaniment: basmati rice


1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Steam or boil the green beans and zucchini until they are cooked but firm.  Drain and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large (10") frying pan over high heat. Add scallions and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add  curry paste (watch out, it splatters!), and half the coconut milk. Stir well to dissolve paste and boil until liquid is slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. 

Scallions, soy-fish sauce concotion, green curry paste, all ready for the pan.

  3. Stir in remaining coconut milk, the sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, and fish sauce, then bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, reduce heat and simmer until liquid is slightly thicker, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Raw shrimp!

Add the vegetables and stir or toss gently to combine. Continue reducing the sauce for another minute or two, until the shrimp are cooked through. (Forgot to take a picture - sorry!)

4. Sprinkle with a generous dose of cilantro and basil. Serve over rice, with lime wedges.

And that was dinner. And you know what, it was actually pretty good!
Which is lucky for me because it's also "Tuesday lunch".

Ok, maybe the chopsticks aren't totally traditional, but I liked how they looked with the placesetting. And I was feeling dexterous. 


Chrissy said...

Oh! You should have got our panang curry while you were with us at Central Market. It's THE BEST. Too bad food cravings are not anticipated that far in advance.

Kate said...

Chrissy, I know! I might actually have to order it online.