Corn and Squash Coconut Stew
Fresh herbs are what make this stew appropriate for spring. The coconut milk is laced with sweet basil, lemony cilantro and spicy serrano chile. I might even add a splash of lime juice in the end next time to brighten up the flavors even more.
You can thaw some frozen corn to cut down the dish’s prep time. But fresh corn is so inexpensive and bountiful right now, I like to buy them on the cob and scrape down the kernels myself. If you’ve never done that before, make sure you watch your fingers. For stabilization, I like to snap each ear into two and stand the sections on the flat end before slicing the kernels off from top to bottom.
Tofu is a great vegetarian protein for this dish. You can use chicken breast. Seafood like shrimp and scallops will also work. If you use seafood, make sure you add them at the end, when the coconut milk is simmering, so you don’t risk overcooking them.
The vegetables in the dish are also interchangeable. You can use yellow squash if zucchinis aren’t available. Some baby carrots, cauliflower florets, or new red potatoes will be great. Just cut them into similar sizes for even cooking.
Adding a cornstarch slurry to the stew is my little addition to the recipe. It’s a technique common in Chinese cooking to “tighten up the broth” as my dad calls it. A slurry, made of cornstarch and some water, acts somewhat like a roux in western cooking. It thickens the broth, allowing it to coat the ingredients better. You can obviously make this stew without the slurry if you like things on the soupy side.
I like to serve this over some basmati or jasmine rice, which soaks up all the sweet coconut milk. The leftovers are great for a packed lunch the next day.
This is so easy and comforting. It’s a perfect break from all the usual spring fares you may be getting tired of.
Corn and Squash Coconut Stew
Adapted from “Local Flavors” by Deborah Madison
- Canola oil, 1 tablespoon
- Firm tofu, 1 14-ounce pack, drained, blotted with paper towels and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- Zucchini, 2 medium, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
- Sweet corn, 4 large ears, slice the kernels off of the cobs
- Serrano chile, 1, finely minced, seeded if you don’t like too much heat
- Cilantro, chopped, 1 heaping tablespoon plus more for garnish
- Thai basil, chopped, 1/4 cup plus more for garnish
- Scallions, including half of the green parts, 5 stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- Coconut milk, 16 ounces (2 cups)
- Soy sauce, 1 teaspoon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cornstarch, 1 teaspoon mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
Heat the oil in a wide nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tofu and zucchini and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to brown all sides of the tofu.
Add the corn, chile, cilantro, basil, scallions and coconut milk. Stir in the soy sauce. Taste the mixture to see how much salt you’d like to add. I used an additional 1/4 teaspoon. Sprinkle some pepper. Simmer until the corn and scallions are tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the cornstarch slurry to the skillet and stir until the broth thickens, about 1 minute.
Serve over rice garnished with the additional herbs. Serves 4.