Sometimes the best meals happen thanks to a chance farmers market encounter. When I spotted perfect little courgettes (zucchini) with their flowers still attached at our tiny local Sunday greenmarket in Carroll Gardens, I pounced. And in the garden at home day lilies are prolific, my sweet potatoes are rampant (their tender green leaves and stems are edible), rows of green garlic are ready for pulling, and the Thai limes and basil are flourishing in pots. And so this summer curry happened. It was fantastic.
Day-old, wilted day lilies add a tangle of silky texture to moist dishes, while their firm buds and fresh flowers provide more body and a unique flavor - somewhere between a sweetly cooked leek and...well, a daylily. They have been eaten as a vegetable in China for eons.
This is a Southeast Asian-style curry, with ginger and garlic offering a substantial but bright body of flavor for the other vegetables. We ate it straight up, with spoons for scooping the last drops of delicious sauce.
Substitute regular garlic or scallions if you don't have green (very young) garlic and its leaves, and wing it with dried turmeric if you don't have the fresh rhizomes. No Thai lime leaf? Grate in some lime zest. Sweet potato shoots? Substitute your favorite leafy green. Vegan? Substitute soy for fish sauce.
Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as part of a meal
2 tablespoons oil ( I use avocado)
3 tablespoons microplaned or very finely chopped fresh ginger
2 heads green garlic, cloves separated
3 mature garlic cloves, crushed fine
1 can (398 ml) coconut milk
2 – 3 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy)
1 lime’s juice (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh curcumin (turmeric)
1/2 cup chopped green garlic leaves
2 lbs baby zucchini, whole or cut into large chunks
1 1/2 cups cubed (1/4-inch size) butternut squash
8 dry (wilted) day lily flowers
4 fresh day lily flowers, anthers and pistil removed
8 day lily buds
1 makrut/Thai lime leaf, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon chile flakes or a large fresh chile, chopped
2 cups loosely packed tender sweet potato shoots (or another leafy green)
4 - 6 sprigs Thai basil
In a wide skillet that can accommodate the zucchini in a single layer, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and all the garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring so it doesn't stick. Add the coconut milk, the fish sauce, lime juice, curcumin, green garlic leaves and wilted daylily flowers. Increase the heat to high. When the liquid boils add the zucchini and enough water to bring the liquid just over the vegetables. Cook covered, at a simmer, for 10 minutes.
Remove the lid, and add the butternut, the rest of the day lilies, the lime leaf and the chile. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat and cook at a gentle boil for 10 - 15 more minutes - the sauce will reduce and concentrate in flavor. Taste for seasoning and add a little more fish sauce or lime if necessary. Stir in the Thai basil and the tender sweet potato shoots and cook until they have wilted into the sauce, about 3 minutes.
Serve in shallow bowls. Or deep bowls.
Or just bowls.