I love cooking and luckily have access to a variety of yummy and unique fresh fruits and vegetables that grow on the tropical coast of Nayarit. I am also incredibly lucky to have friends who have an organic farm just outside of Chacala called Iku that produces incredible greens, veggies, and herbs. Since dark, leafy greens can only be grown here in the winter months, I wait impatiently from about June to December to get my arugula, kale, collards, bok choy, and more from Iku. I could make the 2-hour trek to Costco or El Comer in Puerto Vallarta for leafy greens, but I’d rather support my local farmers and fruterías and buy what is available locally in season. Plus, what you can find at Costco and the other big-box grocery stores pales in comparison to what Iku grows. So while I do miss my greens in the summer, and will occasionally give in to the pull of Costco and El Comer, it is well worth the wait for Iku’s bounty.
Living so far from a big city, I often try to re-create dishes and snacks that I miss or can’t get locally. I also love trying out new flavor combos and vegetarian options. Over the next several months, I will be sharing some of my Iku- and Nayarit-inspired dishes. I hope to one day compile them into a cookbook (tentatively titled, The Jungle Cookbook).
Here’s one I made the other night that the whole family loved. It’s my version of a Thai curry without the benefit of having a quality curry paste/sauce base to work from. Luckily, I can get many of the spices and herbs that go into a curry locally, so I was able to create a version of my own. This recipe is so easy, healthy, and delicious! This version is vegetarian (and can be vegan if you go with veggie broth instead of chicken broth), but you could also add sauteed shrimp or chicken to add extra heartiness. You could also add sauteed tofu and keep it veggie, but we usually can’t find tofu around here!! The dish below uses bok choy, green beans, lemongrass, basil, and oyster mushrooms from Iku.
I hope you like it and please let me know in the comments how yours turns out and if you’d make any changes. Buen provecho!
Veggie Coco Peanut Thai Curry
Coco Peanut Curry Sauce
- 4-5 spears of fresh lemongrass including thick ends
- 1 tablespoon-sized chunk of fresh, peeled ginger
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1-2 dried red chilis
- 4-6 cups chicken or veggie broth
- 8-10 oz unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar (eliminate if using sugary peanut butter like Skippy)
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- Juice of two small key limes or 1 regular lime
- Pinch of sea salt to taste
Veggie stir fry (you can use any veggies you like, these are my faves for this dish:)
- 1 head chopped bok choy
- 1 cup chopped green beans
- 1 cup sliced carrot rounds
- 1 cup sliced red peppers
- 1 cup chopped zucchini
- 1 cup chopped broccoli
- 1 cup chopped oyster mushrooms
- ½ cup sliced red onion
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1-2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
- 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (for garnish)
Bring chicken or veggie stock to a boil, add all the sauce ingredients except for the peanut butter, lime juice, and salt. Just add one chili to start. Boil for 15-20 min, until aromatic. I really love the smell and taste of lemongrass, so I will boil the sauce even longer to draw out more flavor from the grass. Give it a taste after 20 min and see if the lemongrass and spice are to your liking, or you want to add the second (or third) chili or more lemongrass. When I made this dish, I used simojovel chilis from Chiapas. (I know, they are not local to Nayarit, but they are awesomely powerful little hot peppers native to Mexico and I have a bunch of them I brought back from our trip last year to Chiapas, so I had to use them!) When you are happy with the flavor, strain the broth and return it to the stovetop on low heat. Slowly add the peanut butter and stir to melt/combine well. Finally, add lime juice and salt to taste and remove from the heat.
In a large wok or frying pan, heat 1 ½ tablespoons of coconut oil and saute the garlic, onions, ginger and salt for 3-4 min. Then add in the veggies one grouping at a time, starting with the harder/bigger ones first (carrots, green beans, broccoli and red peppers) and stir often. I always end up with way more veggies than my frying pan can hold, so I will remove the veg when they get to a tenderness I like and put them in a casserole dish and then fire up the frying pan again with another 1 ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and dash of salt and then cook the bok choy and mushrooms. When done, add to the pile of cooked veg.
Scoop a big pile of your veggie creation onto a bowl of rice, top with a generous ladle full of sauce and sprinkle with basil and enjoy!