go-to coconut curry

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For the past month or more, I’ve been collecting a few snippets of news I’ve read or articles meant to be shared, but rather than actually share, I’ve stashed them away in a folder and time has marched on.

Looking back, so much of what I had accumulated was news that was frustrating, negative, and political, in congruence with the season, even as it was about the state of our food system and climate. Those are indeed important things and I think we should all be informed about what we are eating and the nature and consequences of its production.

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But for whatever reason I was reminded recently of my high school riding instructor/coach, who always encouraged me to remember and focus on what’s going well, and to forget about the rest. I more often get in the mindset that if I only look through the world with rosy-hued lenses, then nothing gets done, and no real change to the status quo can occur.

But that’s not actually true. We grow better when we are happier, when we are living in joy, when our systems are not stressed with what-ifs and fear.

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I encouraged a nutrition client recently to start small, taking one day at a time, and to focus on only one thing each day that helps her to take care of herself. Taking a dose of my own advice, it’s early morning as I write this, and I’m unexpectedly home at my mom’s farmhouse kitchen table, sitting in what I deem the sunroom, given for it’s dusty lemon hues and big windows letting in the new day. My week has been fraught with grief, many tears, and saying one last goodbye to a truly dear grandfather, and related to that and my own internal fears and anxieties, my thoughts have been incredibly bent toward the negative of late.

Today I’ve decided to focus on the good, and to look for what is going well.

Today it’s that I did make it home to see Papa in his last hours, and it was almost as if he waited for me, the last and furthest grandchild to visit, and for his room to fill with family as he spoke his last words and slipped quietly from us.

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Too, the country is quiet, and I get to spend my day (and yesterday) looking out any window onto wide open pastures and birds singing and dancing their dance.

What this has to do with curry, I don’t for sure know, other than a simple and easily adaptable curry such as this has been my long time go-to for comfort, for taste, for turning whatever I have into something special and pleasing to everyone. It’s the food version of eternally positive, and a dish no matter the vegetable or bean adaptations, seems one can never mess up.

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Go-To Coconut Curry, serves 4-5
I used cooked mung beans, broccoli, white “spring” turnips, and frozen peas in this version, and I encourage you to use whatever you have, is in season, or are particularly enjoying just now. 

1 Tbs. coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 hot green chili pepper, diced (optional)
4 cups chopped seasonal vegetables
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne powder (adjust according to taste)
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
3/4 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, finely grated
1 can full fat coconut milk
1-2 cups water, as needed to thin
2 cups cooked beans
2 cups dark greens, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
2 Tbs. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
fresh cilantro, to serve
cooked long grain brown rice or buckwheat, to serve

  • In a large deep pan over medium heat, warm oil, moving around the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Toss in the chopped onions, garlic, and chili pepper. Stir and let cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion and pepper are soft.
  • Then stir in the other vegetables and cook until they are tender.
  • Add the spices. Give them a minute or so to toast and then pour in the coconut milk, water, beans, greens, and raisins. Stir everything together and let the flavors meld for 5-10 minutes more.
  • Pour in the lemon juice, adjust seasonings to taste, and enjoy with rice or buckwheat and cilantro.

Curried Tofu and Apricot Chutney with Basmati Rice

Curried Tofu and Apricot Chutney with Basmati Rice

 

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I was at my Food Action Team meeting the other day and the intro question was posed, what is your favorite way to cook tofu? Admittedly, I am a somewhat newbie when it comes to making tofu. I’ve only (mostly) mastered it in the last year or so and I still turn to cookbooks for ideas on the best way to get the texture down. I know I’ve done a somewhat good job when William, who like me had decided he did not like it, has really taken to it. A few hours before sharing at my food group about how I made this tasty baked tofu using a dry rub (a new method for me), I received a text from William about how tasty his tofu lunch leftovers were. He’ll only eat leftovers if they were particularly good the first time.

The whole idea that I’d be sharing a great way to cook tofu around a kitchen table with a few long-time vegetarians listening in is slightly humorous. I’ve been getting a lot of messages lately about not being afraid to be myself and I’ve been hearing them loud and clear. Eleven years ago, I was the girl who was proudly sporting a homemade PETA (People for the Eating of Tasty Animals) shirt around my high school. I wasn’t into eating a whole lot more meat then than I do now, but as president of my FFA chapter, having just sold the champion market steer at the county fair, and having been nicknamed the Queen of Agriculture by some of my teachers, I guess I thought I had an image to uphold. Or I really wasn’t in touch with myself.

The biggest lesson I am slowing learning is how to let go of the long-standing public face I put on that either does things to uphold a standard/appease my community or alternatively (and more often) closes down and reveals nothing. Instead, I’d like to put more effort into getting curious, saying yes to new experiences and people, trying new foods I’ve deemed off limits or don’t like, and maybe not be so guarded when others want to be let in. I might stumble and fail for a while but like my experience with tofu, there’s the strong possibility that eventually I’ll get it right.

 

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This whole tofu experience was inspired by Runnin SriLankan, a fellow Recipe Redux blogger. Since this happens to be The Recipe Redux’s birthday month, we’re celebrating by making or getting inspired by each other’s recipes.

Shashi shared her Curried Mango Pork Chops a while ago, and my creative juices were immediately flowing to remake the whole thing into a rice and tofu bowl with a curried fruit chutney when our local summer stone fruits come into season. I’ve been super anticipating the local apricots which are available here at the beginning of summer so the apricots are a key component. Made into a savory-sweet chutney, spiced up with notes of curry powder and smoked paprika, and served alongside rice, carrot curls, and dark leafy greens, this is a really lovely meal for either a weeknight or a slower weekend evening.

Enjoy!

 

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Curried Tofu and Apricot Chutney with Basmati Rice, serves 4

Cooked Brown Basmati Rice

2-3 large carrots

1 large bunch kale or other greens

1 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu

Dry Rub:

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Apricot Chutney:

3/4 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1-2 Tbs. honey

2 cups diced apricots (about 6)

Directions:

  1. In a small dish, combine the dry rub spices and set aside.
  2. Drain and press the tofu for at least 30 minutes. Then, slice it into cubes. Lay out in a single layer in a baking dish and then toss the dry rub to coat all sides.
  3. Bake the tofu in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, stirring/flipping the cubes halfway through.
  4. While the tofu is baking, make the chutney in a small saucepan by adding the diced apricots, curry powder, paprika, ginger, raisins, vinegar, salt, and honey together. Bring to a simmer and allow the ingredients to meld together and become thick. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. While the chutney is simmering and tofu is baking, use a vegetable peeler to make long curls with 2-3 carrots. Set aside and chop the kale or other greens.
  6. Remove the tofu from the oven when crisp-baked and then serve with rice, carrots, greens, and a spoonful (or several) of apricot chutney.

 

Eggplant + Sweet Potato Curry with Coconut Milk

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It rained last night & all day today
so the lake I can’t quite see
over the tree line is pure frothy white.

There is mist everywhere
& I am alone in it.

The white light
burns my eyes, sears a holy purpose
in my human frame.

I’m setting out
on a new journey, ever faithful.
Early on, I walked away
from everything, from things I loved.

But now, when I come to the ocean,
as I know I will, foaming
like some impossible hell,
I won’t despair or surrender.

I’ll find a tree, growing from a crag
on the shore & I’ll cut it down
with the force of my loneliness.

There is the shape of a boat
hidden beneath the bark,
I know it.

So I’ll release it,
using my most tender memories
as tools. I’ll continue.

Nothing
will block my way.

– Nate Pritts, from “Mist Everywhere”

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We tend to eat curry fairly frequently, and it lends itself to being highly adaptable. I have a recipe that I’ve used in the past, but often choose a random one that looks good from the internet. Recently, I’ve been asked by a few friends if I can share a version that Will and I like, and in the interest of The Recipe Redux challenge of experimenting with spices this month, I decided the time has come to lay down a good base. By that, I mean the vegetables and protein can be changed up depending on the season, but this combination of coconut milk, spices, and sweet raisins will work for all sorts of variations. I’ve had a turmeric root hanging out in the freezer for a few months and finally decided to branch out and actually use it. I frequently use dried turmeric, but just like fresh ginger, fresh turmeric is easy to incorporate into recipes. I like to store both in the freezer as they can be used whenever necessary, and then use a micro-grater on them while still frozen. Fresh turmeric is not always available, so if not, the dried kind can be substituted instead.

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 Eggplant + Sweet Potato Curry with Coconut Milk, serves 4-6
1 1/2 Tbs. coconut or olive oil
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalepeño pepper, diced
2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne powder (adjust according to taste)
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp.chili powder
3/4 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 Tbs. fresh turmeric, grated (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
11 oz. light coconut milk
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
2 cups kale, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
fresh cilantro, to serve
cooked long grain brown rice, to serve

Directions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil, moving around the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Toss in leeks, garlic, sweet potato and jalepeño; stir; let cook for about 10-15 minutes, until sweet potato has become slightly soft. Stir in the eggplant and cook for 10 minutes longer, or until both eggplant and sweet potato are cooked through.

Once the veggies are tender, add the spices. Give them a minute or so to toast and then pour in the coconut milk, lemon juice, beans, kale, and raisins. Stir everything together and let the flavors meld for 5-10 minutes more. Adjust seasonings to taste, and enjoy with rice and cilantro.