I love it when a restaurant's food really stands out. When the setting stands out too, it's even better.
On a trip to the Triangle a few weeks ago, friends took me to Black House at Straw Valley in Durham, a very cool new restaurant (how come Durham gets so many of the fun places?). The setting is unusual, in a California-style mid-century modern house with lots of red wood, low rafters and modernist art.
It was so tough to find, I was glad I was with locals. It's tucked away next to a strip mall. But once we found our way to our table, the menu lived up to the setting, with fresh, contemporary takes on globally inspired food, made with mostly locally sourced ingredients.
One of my favorite dishes was a side dish of Malaysian spinach that was sort of a turn on creamed spinach, with a little heat and a tropical touch from coconut milk.
Back at home, I adapted the idea to use on a batch of Tuscan kale (aka lacinato, aka dinosaur kale). I reached for green curry paste for the heat and a can of lite coconut milk for the creaminess. Green curry paste is easy to keep on hand. Look for the little jars in the Asian section of most supermarkets.
Green curry and coconut kale
2 tablespoons sliced shallot (or any kind of onion you have handy)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons green curry paste
CUT away and discard the thickest part of the kale stems. Stack the leaves, cut into 1-inch-wide strips and set aside.
HEAT the olive oil in a skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add the shallot, cover and cook several minutes, until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook about a minute, until fragrant but not browned. Stir in the curry paste and cook about 30 seconds.
ADD the sliced kale, stirring it around to coat with the oil and curry mixture. Cook a minute or two.
SHAKE the coconut milk very well before opening. Pour into the skillet with the kale. Cover and cook a few minutes, until the kale is softened. Uncover and cook a few minutes to reduce the sauce.
YIELD: About 4 servings.