About a month ago at one of my local farmer’s markets I did a double-take. Next to some fresh herbs I spotted something I hadn’t seen before at the market — lemon grass. Apparently it can be grown here in the NYC area. As I often do when I see something new at the market, I bought some without really knowing what I was going to do with it. As luck would have it, another vendor was selling heaps of serrano peppers, and I bought a big handful of them. As I contemplated my purchases, an idea began to take shape in my mind. Why not make my own Thai-style chile paste? So I did. In my tiny food processor I put four serrano peppers (bot red and green, roughly chopped), a few stalks of lemongrass (pounded with the back of my knife, and then cut into manageable pieces), the zest and juice of a lime, some chopped mint, chopped cilantro, a splash of vegetable oil, and a healthy pinch of salt. I blended it together until it was a rough paste, tasted it for seasoning, and adjusted accordingly. It’s spicy, sour, and salty, with great herbal flavor.
So what did I do with the paste? I used half of it as an add-in for some veggies I was sauteing, and served with rice noodles. I used the rest to marinate tofu — I cut the tofu into cubes, and slathered them with the paste. After about an hour I fried up the tofu and mixed with some veggies, and served over rice. It’s a versatile addition to just about any dish, and could even be eaten raw as a dressing — it would make a great cole slaw.