Currying, or spicing, meats, fish, and vegetables has a long history in cooking. There is archaeological evidence found in the Indus Valley of pounded spice blends to flavor foods dating from 2600 bce. Today, curries made with coconut milk are popular along the coastal regions of India and into Asia and Southeast Asia, especially Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, and Thailand (see for a shrimp rendition of coconut milk curry).
A joy of farmers’ market shopping is coming upon unexpected produce and being inspired by its unfamiliar beauty. Such was the case when I found a basket of young cauliflowers and another beside it brimming with spring nettles. A coconut milk curry seemed the perfect way to combine them. The nettles lend an extra green caste to the sauce, already a vibrant chartreuse from green chili peppers and curry powder. If you don’t find nettles, young spinach, preferably with roots, can substitute.
2 tablespoons butter
6 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 tablespoon chopped serrano or jalapeno chili pepper
1 teaspoon hot curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups cauliflower florets (about 1/2 medium head)
1 can organic coconut milk (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups packed nettles
1/4 cup Toasted Rice, for serving (optional, see the sidebar)
1. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and stir fry until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add the shallots, chili pepper, curry powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt and stir to mix. Stir in the cauliflower and cook until beginning to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Stir in the coconut milk and broth and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and cook, uncovered, until the chicken and cauliflower are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
4. Stir in the nettles and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the toasted rice, if using, and serve.