Our favorite gardener, TV host, and author P. Allen Smith (see us cook with him last summer here and here!) issued us a challenge at the beginning of this summer: grow a collection of vegetables and herbs in one pot and at harvest time, use it all to make one cohesive dish. We came to refer to it as the Patio to Plate Challenge. It was so fun to start from the most elemental point and see it all the way through for, you know, that certain type of heady and pride-filled locavore experience.
We started in the garden center, where we found a just-big-enough container that measured about 2 feet across and also procured some organic gardening soil. We then picked out our Bonnie Plants vegetables and herbs: 2 sweet basil plants, 1 bunch of white onions, 1 Italian oregano, 2 white Gretel eggplants, and 2 Big Bertha bell pepper plants.
Back at the house, we planted the taller eggplants in the center and the shorter peppers and herbs on the outside; this allowed the oregano to spill over the side and followed Allen's classic rules for an attractive container garden.
We did run into a few bumps in the road. We might've needed to pick a deeper container than this one, which was so shallow it required watering every day that it didn't rain. Also, if you'd like to try the challenge out yourself, make certain you have a sunny enough spot! Once we recognized that we didn't, we moved our Patio to Plate container garden from mostly sunny to full sun -- and then it really flourished!
The recipe was a no-brainer for us. We both love green curry from places like Bhan Thai and Jasmine here in Memphis, so we wanted to create our own version that was flavorful and delicious. As a bonus, this dish is fast, gluten-free, and vegan. Feel free to add a fried egg or crispy tofu if you'd like, but it's still great as is.
So, readers, what would you grow in your own Patio to Plate garden?
Thai-Inspired Green Curry With Eggplant and Peppers
2 cups fresh basil leaves (more for garnish)
2 portions of rice noodles (for serving)
1 sprig oregano (stem discarded)
1-inch knob ginger
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon sambal
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 teaspoon champagne or rice vinegar
2 cups sliced Japanese eggplant (1/4 inch slices)
2 cups sliced green bell peppers (1/4 inch slices)
1/2 cup sliced green onion (white and green parts)
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
Kosher salt and black pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil (or coconut oil)
The secret to the bright green curry sauce is blanching the basil. Don't skip this step or you'll have a black sauce. Get a large pot of salted water up to a boil. You'll use this both to blanch the basil and to cook the rice noodles. With a bowl of ice water at the ready, drop the basil into the boiling, salted water and wait for it to turn a bright green -- this only takes a few seconds. Using a spider tool, fish the basil out and drop it into the ice water. Once it's cooled, collect the basil and squeeze it dry.
Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drizzle drained noodles with olive or coconut oil to prevent sticking, cover, and set aside until ready to serve.
Make the green curry sauce by blending the blanched basil, oregano, ginger, garlic, sambal, the zest of the lime, can of coconut milk, and vinegar together until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the sliced eggplant, peppers, and onion with the coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Next, get a wok or large sauté pan smoking hot. Add the oil and allow it to smoke. Once it starts smoking, carefully add the vegetable mixture and be sure to toss it every minute to allow it to brown evenly. Add the green curry sauce and allow it to heat through. Once it's hot, place the curry in a serving bowl and garnish with a few basil leaves and lime wedges before serving. (Serves 2 to 4.)