I could eat a bowl of curry every night. I would never get sick of it, because it can be made a hundred different ways. It’s a great vehicle for using up leftovers and it’s more comforting than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Give some love to your curry and it will love you back; ice cream just leaves a gnawing, icy hole in your stomach. I used to make this in college when I was stressed before an exam- it can be a quick weeknight meal eaten over your Economics homework or it can be an hour-long love affair between a flame and a pot.
Curry is simply a dish of meat, beans, tofu, vegetables, etc., cooked in a well-spiced sauce and typically served with rice or bread. Everything comes together in one pot, united over the heat of a flame. Like a group of strangers bonding around a campfire, a variety of veggies and spices can achieve great things when seeking warmth together. Shower them with coconut milk or ease them into a skillet of tomato sauce and they will unite into a formidable entrée. Served with rice or pillowy, buttered bread and you’ve got a mutable formula for dinner that’s always satisfying.
It’s the beginning of May and winter clings desperately to New England like gum on the bottom of your shoe. There are no fresh vegetables to inspire a “seasonal” recipe so I will just describe how to make curry with whatever you can get your hands on. Choose your favorite vegetables, preferably items that would have a similar cooking time in the oven. Grab a few onions, a head of garlic, and fresh ginger.
Get your navy blue Le Creuset dutch oven (just me?) or other heavy-bottomed pot. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter and add a diced onion. Let it sizzle for about 5 minutes, then add a few cloves of crushed garlic, an inch or two of freshly grated ginger, and any spices you’d like. I’ll usually throw in a tablespoon of curry powder and a teaspoon of cumin or garam masala, something to give it a little mystery. You can also add red pepper flakes, paprika, even a pinch of cinnamon. Toast your spices for a minute or two, then add a can of coconut milk, a can of diced tomatoes, (maybe a dash of soy sauce?) and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Mix it up, then add whatever vegetables you can scrounge up in this never-ending Connecticut winter, and maybe a can of chickpeas.
Let this combo simmer blissfully in the heat like someone relaxing in a sauna after a tough workout. Do not disturb for 10-15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. That’s it.
Out of many spices, vegetables, colors, and textures, you’ll get one irresistible curry. I call it “comfort curry” for all of the Art History flashcards it got me through in college. Mom calls it “spicy slop”, for the satisfying noise it makes when hitting an empty bowl, and the hot tingle it leaves on your tongue. Call it what you’d like, because you’re definitely going to remember its name. This is a meal you can make over and over to use up what’s in the fridge, celebrate the first vegetables of the season, or satisfy exactly what you’re craving.
A mutable formula for dinner that's always in season, and always delicious.
- Extra virgin olive oil as needed
- 1/2 white onion chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2-4 cloves garlic chopped (2-3 teaspoons)
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger grated (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin or garam masala if you have it
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 15-ounce can lite coconut milk
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably no-salt-added)
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
- 2- 3 cups chopped vegetables
- 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, cannelini, or other bean, drained and rinsed
- kosher or sea salt as needed
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Add curry powder, garam masala or cumin, and red pepper flakes and toast for about 1 minute more.
Add coconut milk, diced tomatoes, soy sauce, and bring to a simmer. Add vegetables, optional beans, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
Congrats! You practically winged that recipe! Don't forget to taste. If you taste as you go (or even just at the end, oops!), you cannot fail. Add agave or honey for sweetness, more soy sauce for saltiness, or an extra pinch of garam masala for that wow-factor. Garnish with toppings such as cilantro, lime, or yogurt. Serve with buttered rice or toasted naan (or both).