18 October 2012

Thai Vegetable Stew With Paneer And Chickpeas

We just had the most enjoyable weekend with friends who came to visit. It was the perfect time of year for showing them around our little city on bikes and going for a long hike to soak up the beauty of fall in Switzerland. The hike was strenuous but rewarding with breathtaking views and welcome surprise finds of a lake tucked into the mountain valley and a house built into the side of the mountain. 

There is something extremely satisfying and reflective about enjoying the company of close friends amidst a backdrop of natural beauty.  It reminds me of how enriching it is to have good relationships in life and how important it is to show appreciation for them.

That evening we returned home and after warm showers we sat down to enjoy this Thai stew.  It was warmly-spiced, comforting, and nourishing, perfect for a cool Autumn evening after a long hike. This was my way of communicating to our friends that their visit was special. 

Thai Vegetable Stew With Paneer and Chickpeas
Serves 6 

Notes: If you want a richer flavored stew you can substitute the vegetable stock for a can of coconut milk and omit the yogurt at the end. 
I recommend drizzling pomegranate molasses over the stew at the table. Read more about the molasses here. Using it like you would a finishing oil really elevates the flavors of the dish and gives a unique sweet-tart flavor I felt the dish needed. But if you cannot find it, a drizzle of honey stirred in at the end before serving and an extra squeeze of lemon at the table should do the trick. 

2 Tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil
1 package Paneer cheese, cubed
4 small, firm zucchini, sliced 1/4" thick (thick enough to maintain shape and some bite when cooked)
3 stalks of lemongrass, halved with outer layer and green stalks removed
1 bunch of scallions (4-5 pieces), chopped reserving 1/4 for rice
1 large red chili (sometimes called Fresno Chili), sliced reserving 1/4 for rice
1" piece of ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, grated
2 14 oz. cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups good quality vegetable stock
1 medium butternut squash, roasted*
1 large bunch each Thai basil & cilantro, chopped reserving 1/4 of bunch for rice
1/2 cup natural plain yogurt
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 cups black rice (I used organic Forbidden Rice, but Black Japonica will work here too), cooked according to package directions
1/2 cup roasted cashews, chopped
Pomegranate molasses for drizzling at table

In a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat, saute Paneer cubes in 1 tsp coconut oil until the sides are golden brown and crispy. Remove Paneer from pan and set aside.

In a large high-sided saute pan over medium heat, heat the remaining coconut oil and add zucchini, scallions, and lemongrass. Saute for several minutes, season with salt and pepper, and add chili, ginger, and garlic. Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute. Add chickpeas and stock, stir to combine, cover with lid, and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until zucchini is cooked but still has a bite to it.

Gently stir in squash and the next 5 ingredients (through soy sauce). Taste sauce to adjust flavors to your liking.

Serve over black rice, topped with chopped cashews and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

Black Rice
Once rice is cooked, add salt and pepper to taste along with the reserved chili, scallions, herbs, and juice of half a lime. 

*Peel and cut the squash into large bite size pieces. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and roast with olive oil, salt, pepper in 400° oven for 10-15 minutes, until they are just barely fork-tender

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