Zucchini, the garden pest

It’s that time of year. Everyone has too much zucchini and no one knows what to do with it.  I’ve had on average at least 6 zucchini to work with each week thanks to my CSA and I know more is coming.  This leaves us with practically 1 zucchini a day to eat…that’s a lot of squash.  Surprisingly I’ve been a bit more enthusiastic about consuming it this time around than in past years.  I’ve even had some time to try some new recipies courtesy of good finds from friends and others on Pinterest.

Below are two worth noting.  I’ve had an ongoing batch of the Cold Zucchini Salad in my fridge for at least two weeks.  It’s a perfect snack on a hot summer day.  The Mexican Zucchini Skillet was surprisingly good and I’m so thankful to incorporate zucchini into something Mexican since we eat it at least once a week.  And of course I’ve made a batch of Zucchini bread but I have yet to find a recipe that I like so I have nothing to share; yet.

I’ll let you know if I come across anymore recipes worth sharing.  I’ve included the links to the original recipes but have written up the ones below with the modifications I used here at home.

Cold Zucchini Salad

4 small zucchini (1 lb total)
1/3 cup loosely packed mint leaves
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Pepper to taste
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (1 oz.)

  1. If you are starting with raw pine nuts, toast them first. Heat a small skillet on medium high heat. Add the pine nuts. Stir gently as the pine nuts start to brown. When slightly browned, remove from heat and let cool.
  2. Slice the squash into paper-thin slices using a mandoline or knife. Set aside in a bowl.
  3. Stack the mint leaves, roll them together lengthwise and slice crosswise to make very thin slivers. Add to squash in bowl.
  4. Combine the oil and lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk together. Whisk in the salt and pepper and pour the dressing over the contents of the bowl. Add the pine nuts and toss all together, gently, but thoroughly. Let mixture stand for at least 10 minutes to soften the squash and develop the flavors.

 

Mexican Zucchini Skillet

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 small to medium zucchini; sliced into rounds then quartered
1/2 cup green bell pepper; diced
1 can (15 oz) Black Beans, drained, rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz) Diced Tomatoes with jalapenos, undrained
3/4 cup water
1 cup rice
1 tsp salt
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
tortillas
toppings:  tomatoes, black olives, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, salsa

  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and bell pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beans, undrained tomatoes and water. Increase heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Add rice; stir well. Cover; remove from heat and let stand 7 minutes.  Reheat if needed, until liquid is absorbed.
  3. Fill tortillas with zucchini-rice mixture and desired toppings, wrap up and enjoy!

Drunken Noodles

Next to Panang curry, Drunken Noodles is by far my favorite Thai dish.  We buy our fresh wide rice noodles at our Thai market (Hung Phat for those DC/MD folks).  It doesn’t contain alcohol, as the name would imply, but instead is ‘drunk’ in its 4 ingredient sauce which is key to good authentic Drunken Noodles.  This dish has some prep time but once everything is ready to go it can be tossed together in minutes. We cut back on the spice quite a bit, as you can see in my notes, to appease the masses here.  Even Sydney enjoys this dish…when she feels like cooperating.  The tomatoes and onions are standard in this dish, however, other vegetable additions to consider are Chinese broccoli and red or green peppers.

Drunken Noodles

Chicken, shrimp or other protein (if desired)
2 Tbl cooking oil
2 lb fresh wide rice noodles (or about 1 lb dried)
10 fresh Thai Chilies*
8 cloves garlic
2 tomatoes cut into small wedges
3 stalks green onion, cut into 1 inch sections
1 small onion, cut into slivers
8 stalks Chinese broccoli, cut into 1/2 inch sections
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
1/4 cup fish sauce**
1/4 cup black soy sauce***
1/4 cup oyster sauce****
1 tsp sugar

  1. Combine fish, black soy, oyster sauce and sugar in a 2 cup liquid measuring cup.  Set aside.
  2. Cut the stems off the chilies and chop chilies and garlic together (use a small food processor if you have one).
  3. Prepare noodles as necessary.  For fresh noodles, separate and cut them as desired. For dry noodles, cook as directed.
  4. Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat, add oil to the pan.  Add chicken, shrimp or other proteins and cook accordingly.  Remove proteins from pan; wipe out pan if necessary.
  5. Add additional oil to the pan if needed.  Add onions and stir for one minute, then add the chili/garlic paste and stir for another minute, then add green onion and broccoli (or other vegetables) and stir for another minute.
  6. Add the sauce prepared in step #1, tomatoes and basil and stir everything together.
  7. Add the noodles and stir til heated through.  Serve.

Notes:  For our chili/garlic paste I use 8 chili’s (seeds removed) and 8 cloves of garlic.  I then only use HALF of this mixture (I freeze the other half).

* tiny red chili’s.  Can find in freezer & can keep in freezer once opened.
** See Pad Thai post for notes about fish sauce.
*** I use the brand with the pink dragon-fly on the bottle.
**** The Maekrua brand which has a lady stir frying on the bottle.

Green Curry

I’ve had some requests to post more of the Thai food recipes we use;  next up is Green Curry. We make this often and freeze it so we can enjoy it later. Although I’ve posted how to make the curry paste you can also buy cans of curry paste at reputable Thai Markets (those in the DC/MD area I go to Hung Phat) to save yourself some time (and the hassle of getting jalapeno oil off your food processor).

Green Curry Paste

10 jalapenos
5 green Thai chili peppers
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (stems included)
8 garlic cloves
1/2 cup chopped shallots or red onion
1/4 cup chopped lemongrass*
5 thin slices galanga**
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp shrimp paste

  1. To adjust heat/spice level remove some seeds from the jalapenos and Thai chili peppers (I do half and half).
  2. Combine all ingredients into a blender and process til smooth (can add some water to make smooth).
  3. Divide into 1/4 cup portions and freeze.

Green Curry with Chicken and Bamboo Shoots

2 cups coconut milk
1/4 cup green curry paste (as above, or use canned paste. Maesri brand is spicy good)
3 chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fish sauce***
3 Tbs sugar
1 cup julienned bamboo shoots
1/2 cup coconut cream****
6 kaffir lime leaves (optional, hard to find)
1/4 Thai basil leaves, chopped
two red chili, thinly sliced

  1. place coconut milk and curry paste in a pot, heat to boiling then add chicken, fish sauce and sugar. Simmer for 5 mins.
  2. Add the bamboo shoots and simmer for 2 more mins.
  3. Add the coconut cream and stir to combine
  4. Add lime and Thai basil leaves.  Garnish with red chili slices and serve.

* lemongrass is found shredded in freezer
** galanga is from the ginger family. You can find it in chunks (size of thumbs) in the freezer section of most Asian marts
*** see my Pad Thai post to read about fish sauce
**** coconut cream is thicker/sweeter than coconut milk it can be found in freezer or canned near the coconut milk.

Making Butter

I learned how to make butter at Syd’s Waldorf school.  The adults would pass around the jar of cream to shake while the kids explored.  It was so fresh and sweet I knew I had to try it at home…so we have…and will continue to do so.  It’s so easy – it’s a shame I didn’t learn before now!

First, start with good quality heavy whipping cream. We get ours from our dairy, so we know the moo-cows are grass-fed and happy. Pour the cream into a glass jar big enough so you have room to shake; I like my jar about half full of cream.

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Second, shake. Shake shake shake til you think you can’t shake anymore.  Shake it high, shake it low, give it to a kid to shake, or a husband.  You will shake, in total for about 15-30 mins.  The cream will go through stages that you will feel while you shake.  First is the cream stage, it’s how it feels right when you start shaking.  The second stage things will get a little thicker.

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The thick stage

Then it will get so thick you will think there isn’t anything going on in that jar and that you should stop shaking — but don’t! — cause if you keep shaking miraculously things will separate and lead you to the fourth and final stage.  The final stage is when you sorta hear the butter slop and splash with the buttermilk.  THIS is when you are done.

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The final stage

At this point you can pour out the buttermilk into your vessel of choice using a funnel or as I have done here, a mesh colander.  Then with a spoon or spatula or other flat device, work the rest of the buttermilk out of the butter. I do this first in the colander.

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and then I use some cheesecloth to squeeze the rest.

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Viola!  Butter!

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If you want you can work in some salt at this point or keep it unsalted — whatever your pleasure.  Other herb infusions would be fun too!

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With a pint of cream I can get a good-sized ramiken of butter (maybe 1.5 sticks?…next time I’ll weigh it), and about 1.25-1.5 cups of buttermilk which is just enough for buttermilk pancakes, fancy that! Now go find some good bread and enjoy!

Eggnog Cheesecake

I hate Eggnog.  I’m not a fan of most thick high calorie creamy beverages.  I have no idea how close to tasting like drinking eggnog this is since I don’t drink the stuff, but this cheesecake is super yummy.  Just the right amount of spice.  It’s definitely not low-calorie and I don’t suggest eating a piece every night for any length of time, but for a once a year indulgence it’s a nice treat that your taste buds won’t regret.  I made it a few weeks ago when I hosted our Holiday Book club and I’m making it again today to bring to a Boxing Day Party on Monday.

Eggnog Cheesecake

1 cup very finely ground cashews
1 cup finely crushed graham crackers (14 squares)
½ cup sugar
½ cup butter, melted

4  8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon rum (optional – I used Bacardi although a spiced rum may be fun)
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs
1 ½ cups dairy eggnog

  1. For the cheesecake crust:  In a medium bowl, stir together the ground cashews, graham crackers and the ½ cup sugar.  Drizzle the melted butter over the cashew mixture. Toss till mixed well.  Press the cashew mixture onto the bottom and about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan.  Wrap outside of the springform pan securely with heavy foil.  Set aside.
  2. For filling:  In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium-high speed 3 to 4 minutes or till light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar, beating for 2 to 3 minutes or till mixture is completely smooth, scraping sides of bowl.  Reduce speed to medium; beat in rum, vanilla and nutmeg.  Add eggs all at once; beat on low-speed till just combined.  Stir in eggnog.
  3. Pour filling into crust-lined pan.  Place springform pan in a large roasting pan.  (Make sure there’s at least 1 inch between the springform pan and the edges of the roasting pan.)  Place roasting pan on oven rack.  Carefully pour enough hot tap water into roasting pan to come halfway up side of springform pan.
  4. Bake in 350 degree oven 60 to 70 minutes or till edge of cheesecake is firm and center appears nearly set when lightly shaken. Carefully remove pan from water bath, transfer to a wire rack.  Cool 15 minutes.  Remove foil.  Loosen crust from sides and cool 30 minutes.  Remove sides of pan; cool.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Notes:

  • In my oven it took up to 90 minutes or more to reach the doneness as described and my Mother and Aunt have also confirmed 90 mins is about the right amount of time.
  • My crust was really greasy so I will not put the entire 1/2 cup of butter in next time to see what happens.
  • I would let it cool longer before releasing the pan sides/locks.  The next time I’m going to refrigerate it for an hour with pan sides on before removing them to help the cheesecake firm up a bit.

Panaeng Curry

A few friends asked me for a recipe so I’m posting it here to keep track.   Having these things online is sometimes amazingly helpful when traveling.    Much of the details on my love of Thai food comes from another post for my Pad Thai.

Hands down my favorite Thai dish is Panaeng Curry…a nutty spicy creamy red curry that if done right is absolutely mouth-watering addicting.  So far I’ve found two local restaurants that do it to my liking; Nava Thai and Benjarong.  This recipe comes from the chef at Nava Thai.  The teacher I took my Thai food class from ‘studied’ under the woman who owns Nava.  Nava Thai is also next door to the Asian market I frequent to get all these strange but needed ingredients.

As with all Thai curries you start with a paste and whisk in coconut milk.  You can also buy canned pastes from good Asian markets.  I have tried the canned Maesri Panaeng Curry Paste and have been pleased.  Curry Paste freezes well so if you make a batch, use your ice-cube trays and save some for later.

Chicken Panaeng Curry 

4 jalapenos, chopped (seeds included for more spice)
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1/2 cup chopped onion or shallot
1/2 cup chopped garlic
2 Tbl chopped galangal
2  Tbl lime zest, chopped
1/2 cup chopped lemongrass
2 Tbl shrimp paste
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2+ c coconut milk
chicken – as much as your family will eat.

  1. To make paste, place first 8 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  Can add water if needed to make smooth.
  2. Stir-fry about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of paste in the oil.  Slowly add half of the coconut milk and stir until boiling.  Add meat.  Slowly add remainder of coconut milk til you have reached your desired curry consistency.
  3. Keep stirring til meat is cooked.
  4. Serve with steamed  Jasmine Rice

Notes:

  • Galangal is from the ginger family. You can find it in chunks (size of thumbs?) in the freezer section of most Aisan marts
  • Lemongrass is also found shredded in freezer
  • Other proteins can be substituted for the chicken.  Tofu should be cooked as desired before adding to the curry.  Do not over cook shrimp.
  • We love fresh bamboo shoots. Although traditionally they are only served in green curries…they are still yummy here.

Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Syd obviously wanted a sibling this weekend because she was on her best behavior.  Not a fuss to be found but there was plenty of giggles and independent playing.  yay!  Mom and Dad even got to go out for a date-night on Saturday to have some time to ourselves…just some shopping, dinner and long walk (to an ice cream store) in our fair city of Silver Spring.  Even the weather cooperated…low humidity, mid-80’s.  I couldn’t have planned this weekend better myself.  We topped it off tonight with a fantastic dinner.  I crave this when I start getting good lettuce, tomatoes and parsley from the CSA.

Grilled Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

flank or skirt steak (however much will feed your family)
chili water (1 tbs paprika, 2 tbs salt, 1 cup warm water)
red onions, peeled and sliced 1/2 think
pita bread
tomatoes, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds
lettuce
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic
1.5 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbs fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Make chili water and submerge steak, refrigerate for a few hours.
  2. Make the Chimichurri sauce by pulsing the parsley, bay leaves, garlic, paprika, and oregano in a food processor til finely chopped.  Add vinegar and olive oil and blend until incorporated. Season with salt and olive oil.  Set aside.
  3. Remove steak from chili water.  Grill steak, onions & pita.  (If medium-rare is your desired steak temp — heat grill to super hot and place steak on oiled grate, grill with lid off and char on both sides then remove). Let steak rest a few minutes then slice and coat with 1/2 cup of the Chimichurri sauce.
  4. Slice the grilled pita in half to make pockets.  Stuff full of fresh tomatoes, lettuce, grilled onions and steak. Drizzle with extra Chimichurri sauce if desired.

What to do with collards

CSA time is drawing to a close at the end of this month but it is still keeping me on my toes.  I’m always perplexed as to what to do with the kale, swiss chard and collards that are so abundant this time of year.  I would be lying if I said we used them each week.  More often than not they get tossed out of sheer ignorance of what to do with them.  Part of my problem is that growing up we never really ate these leafy greens.  They weren’t regular or even occasional guests at our dinner tables.

This week we got collards, and with it a recipe that looked perfect for a lazy Sunday.  If you ever have a bunch of collards lying around I highly recommend this recipe.  Not only was it stupid easy (I threw it together at 9 AM and let it sit all day), it was flavorful and even Syd could eat it!  If everyone is happy, I’m happy.  If I can get my hands on a good Portuguese kale soup I may try that with our next batch of kale.  We shall see what the farm gives us this week!

Italian Fall Soup with Collards
1 lb loose ground sausage
1/4 cup olive oil
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
8 cups water
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 x 32 oz cans diced tomatoes or crushed tomatoes (we used diced so Syd could pick up the pieces)
2 cups pasta, uncooked
1 bunch collards, cut off stems and chop into small shreds
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp Italian herb seasoning

In a large heavy soup pot brown the sausage in the olive oil on medium heat.  When almost browned add the carrots, onions, garlic, collards.  Continue to stir often over medium heat for 15 more minutes.  Add the water, tomatoes, and all seasonings.  Bring to a simmer. Add uncooked pasta and simmer for 15 mins until pasta is cooked.

You can eat it once the pasta is done cooking, but according to the recipe it is best if it sits all day or even better, over night (I let it hang out on the stove-top off heat all day).  Reheat when it’s time to chow!  I used a veggie pasta that broke down significantly; I’m not sure if regular pasta will do the same.  Syd loved the carrots and even the collards which is shocking because she is very picky when it comes to veggies.  I went into this figuring she would have a dinner of pasta and sausage with a side of tomatoes but she just gobbled everything up.  Who knew?!

Niçoise Salad

This is year 2 of our CSA and we are about half-way through our season which runs from May til November.  Each week we get a variety of goods and you never know what you will get so it challenges you to be creative to use everything.  Last week we got another bounty of sweet peppers (yellow, orange, green), Tomatoes (cherry and beefsteak), green beans, new potatoes, zucchini, and some other stuff that my weary brain can’t remember.

We ate a lot of bad stuff last weekend…the Iowa vs. IA state game brought out the naughty in us I suppose.  We had nachos for lunch and fried pork tenderloin sandwiches for dinner (just like the Iowa State Fair!).  We were feeling pretty gluttonous by Monday after a dinner of Fajitas on Sunday; we needed to use some peppers after all!   So what would you do to create a light meal that would use up new potatoes, green beans and tomatoes?  Our choice was Salad Niçoise; and each time I make this salad I remember how darn good it is, and wish it would occur to me make it more often.  For those of you not familiar with Niçoise Salad (Niçoise is pronounced NEE-SWAA), it is a French salad full of protein, color and texture.

Anyways enjoy!  I’ll try to make a regular habit of posting how we use our CSA each week.   Amazingly it all gets eaten…I feel some sort of strange obligation to consume most of it so very few items get thrown out each week.

Salad Niçoise
recipe adapted from BH&G cookbook

romaine or baby lettuce mix
new potatoes; cut into quarters
green beans, trimmed
cherry tomatoes, cut in half
thinly sliced red onion
kalamata olives
anchovies, if desired
hard boiled eggs, sliced or cut into quarters
tuna – canned or fresh (I use good quality canned tuna in oil)
croutons, if desired
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp dried tarragon crushed (or use fresh if you have it)
1/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste

  1. Start by boiling the potatoes and eggs together in the same pot.  Toss in the green beans and cook for 8 mins or until done, then remove.  When potatoes are fork tender either drain the pot (if the eggs are done) or remove the potatoes and continue cooking the eggs.  Chill potatoes, beans and eggs if desired; they do not need to be served warm.
  2. Combine the oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper in a small jar and shake vigorously to combine.
  3. If using fresh tuna, cook as appropriate.  If using canned tuna, drain and ‘fluff’ with a fork.
  4. Assemble salads, pour on dressing and enjoy!

Pad Thai

I love Thai food.  If I could only bring one ethnic food to my desert island it would be a close tie between Indian and Thai. But since Thai has less detrimental effects on my GI system I think it would win the battle.

I love Thai food so much that Royce bought me a 3-series Thai cooking class at our local cooking school about a year ago.  I learned how to make many of my favorites; Drunken Noodles, Green Curry with Chicken, Spring Rolls, Panang Curry (if you ask nicely I can add the recipes for those too).  However, the Pad Thai we learned how to make was über disappointing.  Ever since I have been on a search for the perfect recipe and by golly I think I found it!  This comes straight from Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton; a fantastically hilarious book on feeding children that I highly recommend.  The notes are my own from experience with working with Thai food products.  Your first order of business will be to find a reputable Asian market…maybe even one with a silly name like the one I visit here in Maryland:

Photo courtesy of my friend John Pence

Pad Thai Sauce
recipe from Matthew Amster-Burton

4 oz tamarind paste (see note 1)
1.5 cups boiling water
0.25 cup peanut oil
6 tablespoons fish sauce (see note 2)
1 table spoon rice vinegar
0.25 cup (2 oz) palm sugar, crushed (or substitute white sugar)

Place the tamarind paste in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it.  Let sit 5 minutes, then stir gently, pressing the paste against the side of the bowl to break it up.  Let sit another 5 mins and stir again.  Repeat until there are no large chunks of paste, then strain through a sieve into a bowl, pressing gently on the tamarind paste and scraping the bottom of the sieve.  Discard the contents of the sieve.  Add the peanut oil, fish sauce, rice vinegar and palm sugar to the tamarind liquid and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Note 1: Tamarind paste is sold 14-16 oz blocks at asian markets.  It looks like poo…really, it does.  I went through the water/sieve process outlined above for my first attempt at this recipe but I also noticed that next to the blocks of tamarind poo-paste there was ‘Tamarind Concentrate’.  I’m thinking someone has already done this inglorious work for us!  Next time I will buy the ‘concentrate’ and add 1.5 cups of it too my sauce and see how it turns out compared to the hot water/sieve process as mentioned above (which was sort of a pain in the ass).

Note 2:  Fish sauce is gross, but it is necessary in Thai cooking.  Thankfully my teacher of the Thai cooking class did all the work for you and  all the best Thai restaurants and they use “THREE CRABS Brand”. It’s a 24 oz bottle with a pink and white label and guess what?…it has 3 green crabs on it, below which you will find in tiny writing “THREE CRABS Brand”.  Why they don’t make this bigger I have no idea.  There is a ton of large asian writing above the 3 crabs but I don’t know what that says.

Note 3:  This sauce recipe will make enough for several batches of Pad Thai (see recipe below).  You can keep extras in your fridge for 1 week or they can be frozen up to 1 month according to Mr. Amster-Burton.

Simple Pad Thai
recipe from Matthew Amster-Burton
serves 2 adults (see note)

4 oz rice stick noodles, soaked in hot tap water 20 minutes and drained
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 large egg
0.25 cup Pad Thai Sauce
lime wedges, for serving
chopped peanuts, for serving

Heat the peanut oil over medium-high in a large non-stick skillet until shimmering.  Add the egg and scramble vigorously until nearly cooked, about 15 seconds.  Add the noodles and Pad Thai sauce and cook, tossing with a spatula and wooden spoon, until the sauce is nearly all absorbed and the noodles are tender and well coated, about 2 minutes.  Serve immediately with chopped peanuts for sprinkling and lime wedges for squeezing.

Note:  I doubled this recipe.  I also added tofu, green onions, and bean sprouts.  If you want to add shrimp, chicken or tofu just saute it (unseasoned) prior to starting the recipe then toss it in when you add the noodles.  I added more sauce as well, just do a quick taste and figure out your liking!

So there you have it.  A super simple (seriously if you cut out the tamarind paste circus this goes together in a flash) Pad Thai reminiscent of something that I would order from my favorite Thai restaurant here.  Now if I could just perfect my Panang Curry recipe I seriously think we would never have to go-out for Thai food ever again!

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