Saturday, April 7, 2012

Karmic Curries

It's been two weeks and five days since I started working at Main Street, and I am loving every minute of it.  I know, I know, no one loves working, but I'm telling you, I love it.  Clearing dishes, making coffee, loading the dish washer, foaming milk, wrapping food, and especially waiting on customers.  While you get the occasional rude or overly needy patron, the majority are pleasant and fun to chat with.  We have a couple of every-day regulars who are ridiculously charming and make me smile every time I see them walk through the door.  And the people I work with make the slow dragging lulls go by so much faster.
Easter Baristas.
Okay, sorry, enough ranting about my love of being a barista.  The point of me bring up work was to segue into a narrative about how I decided on last night's dinner. And this segue is much more awkward than anticipated...

On our way home from work, my mother and I stopped at the grocery store to pick up eggs to dye for Easter, but neither of us could come up with anything we felt like having for dinner, so we decided on picking up sushi after the market.  We grabbed eggs and a few necessities and headed to the checkout.  My mom forgot her wallet in the car, so I held our place in line while she ran out to get it.  Of course, my gaze immediately went to the strategically placed magazines. While there were various celebrity dissolved marriages to pry into and best bikini bodies to glare at, a special Spring/Summer edition of Real Simple that was all "Easy, Delicious Home Cooking" caught my eye.  I was flipping through it, admiring the beautiful photos and mentally tagging recipes to look up later, when I saw it - what I wanted for dinner.  A vegetable and tofu curried soup.  The photo was what got me; it was warm and inviting, but with bright colors and a crispness that just screamed spring.

While I'd found what I wanted for dinner, not all the Confoy's are as keen on tofu as I am, so I needed to come up with something that the whole family would enjoy .  With a sigh, I resumed flipping pages, mentally tagging the tofu curry for another night.  But guess what was lying only a few pages away?  A recipe for curried shrimp and snow peas.  The best part?  The ingredients for both recipes were basically identical, the real difference being a very slight change in preparation methods.  I took that as a big karmic slap-in-the-face that tonight I must make curry. When I saw my mom heading down the registers I yelled, "I know what we have to make for dinner!  Go grab coconut milk and shrimp!"  We were quick and  efficient, and home eating curry faster than it would have taken to order and pick-up sushi.

I made a few changes to Real Simple's recipes, mainly due to missing or varying ingredients. Both recipes call for red curry paste, which isn't a pantry necessity, and which I didn't want to buy just for this one recipe.  I did however just buy a jar of  Ras El Hanout - a Moroccan spice blend - that I'd been meaning to give a try.  I also left out the green beans in tofu dish, because I thought with the peas they might be a little redundant.

Now, one ingredient that I normally leave out of my curries is coconut milk.  I'm not talking about the vegan milk-substitute made with coconuts (though I do use it along with the canned coconut milk in these recipes).  I'm talking about real coconut milk made from the meat of the coconut.  Why haven't I used it before?  Well, first off, it came in a can, and the idea of "milk in a can" just kind of turned me off.  And second, I didn't really think that it would make that much of a difference.  Oh, how wrong I was.  The coconut milk made these curries.  Seriously.  I've been plagued with curries that are too thin and soupy, or when I try to thicken them, become heavy and more of a gravy than a curry.  But the coconut milk is the perfect combination of liquid and creamy thickness that gives the curry the perfect consistency.  This week I am going to stock up on cans of coconut milk so I can make excellent curry whenever I want.
Thai Curry Vegetable and Tofu Soup
1½ cups vegetable broth
½ 14 oz can coconut milk
½ cup non-dairy coconut milk
2 tbs Ras El Hanout, or other curry powder
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 pint sized container of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
1 cup snow peas
1 carrot, sliced into thin coins
14 oz extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
2 tbs fresh lime juice
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
salt and lime zest to taste

+ In a large sauce pan, whisk the broth, coconut milk, non-dairy milk, curry, ginger, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to boil.
+ Add the mushrooms and carrots and simmer until the carrots are tender.  Then add the peas and tofu, and simmer until the peas become a bright green.
+ Stir in the lime juice, zest, and basil.  Serve hot over rice or on its own.
Curry Shrimp and Snow Peas
½ 14 oz can coconut milk
½ cup non-dairy coconut milk
2 tbs Ras El Hanout, or other curry powder
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tbs fresh lime juice
1 cup snow peas
½ cup bean sprouts
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
salt and lime zest to taste

+ In a large sauce pan, whisk coconut milk, non-dairy milk, curry, and salt.  Bring to a boil.

+ Add the shrimp, and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook until the shrimp is done, bright pink and curled.
+ While the shrimp is cooking, toss the peas, sprouts, basil and 1 tbs lime juice in a medium bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.
+ When the shrimp is done, stir in the remaining lime juice and zest.  Serve the shrimp curry over rice with the pea mixture on top.
Note: In both cases the liquid will begin to bubble up, so watch it it make sure it doesn't overflow.  Once the vegetable are added, the liquid will settle.

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  1. Yum! But, I have to tell curry paste IS a pantry staple. Buy a jar and keep it in the fridge. I swear it stores forever...and when you use it, you'll be glad you did :)
    PS - Please come make curry things for me!

  2. Mindy don't worry, I'm going out this week and stocking up on coconut milk and red curry paste, thus adding them to my pantry staples.