I don't cook a lot of Asian, so this seems like a great place to start. Simply Vegetarian Thai Cooking is an update of an earlier book, Real Vegetarian Thai. I suppose my resistance to cooking Thai food is the daunting list of ingredients. I have a huge pantry, but I rarely run across a Thai recipe that doesn't require at least 3 items I don't possess, so "throwing" something together is always a bit hard. McDermott is masterful at giving options for lemongrass, galanga, and other items that might not be handy. That being said, imagine how cool these recipes are in all their exotic glory.
The best part of the book comes late in her section entitled Basic Recipes. This section contains many of the stocks, sauces, condiments, and curries that make the recipes come to life. I do love to cook curry, but lately, they have been lacking, so this part of the book is a definite sweet spot. While a curry does require a rather long list of ingredients, they are easy to come by. Her simple curry paste is going to be a staple in the fridge.
Quick-and-Simple Curry Paste
5 fresh serrano chiles, three fresh green jalapenos or 7 long slender dried chiles
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger root
1/4 cup chopped garlic (15-20 cloves)
1 tbsp grated lime zest
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1. Stem chiles and discard some of the seeds. Chop fresh chiles coarsely. Soak dried chiles in hot water to cover, about 10 minutes.
2. Drain dried chiles, if using. In a blender or mini processor, combine chiles, cilantro, onion, ginger, garlic, lime zest, coriander, cumin, black pepper and salt and grind to a fine, fairly smooth puree, stopping often to scrape down sides and adding a few tbsp (30ml) of water as needed to move the blades. Transfer to a jar, seal airtight and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
I am sorry I didn't have this cookbook earlier, I would probably now be a whiz at Thai! Well, it is never too late to start and I am headed to the kitchen now!