No cheese. No bacon. No avocado. No wine. Yet I stand firmly behind my "MMMMM!" How is this possible?! Just check out the recipe below to see why. This is actually my first attempt at a Thai dish, and I'm excited about how well this vegan dish turned out. No one else tasted it, unfortunately, but I'm confident someone who appreciates Thai food would give me at least a B.
Here are the substitutions I made: instead of oyster mushrooms I used a blend of oyster, crimini and porcini mushrooms, because it's all I could find. I also wasn't able to track down Thai basil, so I just regular basil (and less than was called for, at that. I was afraid the regular basil might not translate as intended).
It took about an hour and a half to prepare, but nothing was complicated at all. The strongest flavor was mushroom, followed by jalapeño then ginger. And, actually, the ginger flavor didn't bother me, which was surprising to me. I'm not generally a ginger fan, but it worked so well here.
Here's the recipe, straight from Food & Wine Magazine. I halved everything, by the way. Enjoy!
4 large bell peppers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or grapeseed oil
2 medium shallots, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup long-grain white rice
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1 large jalapeño, finely chopped with seeds
3/4 pound oyster mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups chopped spinach
1/4 cup chopped Thai basil, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Slice the tops off the peppers and cut the tops into 1/4-inch dice; discard the cores and stems. Boil the hollowed out peppers until just tender, 4 minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the peppers to paper towels to drain, cut side down. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water.
In a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallots and garlic, season with salt and cook over moderate heat until softened, 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until toasted, 4 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, ginger, curry paste and the 1 1/2 cups of reserved pepper water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the liquid is absorbed, 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the diced bell pepper tops and the jalapeño and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until tender, 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cover and cook, stirring a few times, until tender, 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are browned, 4 minutes longer. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, 1 minute.
Add the vegetable mixture to the rice and stir in the basil and lemon juice. Season with salt. Fill the peppers with the rice mixture and set them in a shallow glass or ceramic baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes, until the rice filling is heated through. Garnish with basil leaves and serve.