Vegetable Drawer Survivors: Vegan Curry

I’ve been traveling for work, as I often do.  I came home to a house with soup and pizza in the freezer and not much else in the way of foodstuffs, as I often do.  I left two items in the vegetable drawer, partly to see how hardy they are:  a head of orange cauliflower and a small bunch of collard greens.  Both survived in pretty fine form.  Both appear in tonight’s dinner.

I’ve taken a liking to chickpeas with cauliflower.  Neither tastes like all that much on its own.  Both take on flavor really nicely.  One crunchy and one creamy, the perfect pair.  It doesn’t hurt that I always have canned chickpeas in the house.  So, that’s how I landed on cauliflower and chickpea curry for dinner.

This is a tomato curry.  Lucky for me, I have a basement full of home canned tomatoes.  They have a brighter flavor than the canned ones you get from the store.  And since you home can in jars, they never have the slightly tinny taste that you sometimes get from an off can of store bought tomatoes. So, the advice is the same as always.  When you have only a few ingredients, use the best ones you can reasonably find and afford.  This curry has strong enough spices that you can get away with slightly more mediocre tomatoes if that’s what you have in the house.

Now comes confession time.  I didn’t have any fresh ginger in the house. I did have the end of a bottle of “squeeze ginger.”  You cannot make this up.  So, I cheated.  I used that instead of fresh.  Here’s the thing.  It’s not really a one for one substitute.  Fresh ginger is only that, ginger.  Squeeze ginger has a little sugar and a little vinegar in it.  Here’s my logic in using it anyway.  A little sugar never hurts against a heavy spice.  The tomatoes have a little acid added to them so they’ll keep in the jars, so a touch more acid from the vinegar would probably be ok.  Sound logic?  Probably not, but it worked for me.

This is super easy to put together.  Took me about 35 minutes including chopping and cooking.  With rice and/or naan alongside, this probably feeds 5-6.  As stew, more like 4.  But I have a major portion control problem when it comes to foods I like, so use your own judgment.

Here’s what you need:

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The very astute among you will notice that there’s a jar of yellow curry paste in this photo.  That’s a HUGE mistake.  I need curry powder for this.  Generally speaking, curry powder is for Indian dishes and curry paste is for Thai dishes.  Curry paste has a bunch of other stuff in it, usually including lime and coconut.  Not a terrific match for Indian curries.  Fortunately I caught my mistake before I started cooking.

This is supposed to be yellow curry powder, but I only had Madras so that’s what I used.

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I’ve never seen collard greens in a recipe for curry, but I had some and an extra leafy green never hurt anyone so in they went!  They add a little bitterness.  Just be sure to cut them in thin ribbons so they’ll cook through.  Remove the stems from the leaves and stack the leaves on top of each other.  Roll them into a cigar shape and then cut the rolls into ribbons.  Here’s what everything looks like chopped.

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Here’s what you really need:

  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into pieces
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 5-6 small collard leaves, stemmed and cut into ribbons
  • 1 T oil – olive or canola or vegetable
  • 2 t curry powder (Madras or yellow)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or 1 T squeeze ginger)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14-15 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 C water or vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil until it shimmers and add the curry powder
  • Stir the curry powder until fragrant (1-2 minutes)
  • Add the onions, saute 6-7 minutes, until the onions are soft
  • Add the ginger, garbanzo beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, collards, bay leaf and water
  • Mix gently and bring to a simmer
  • Cover and cook 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked through, but not mushy – Stir a couple of times as it cooks
  • Remove the bay leaf
  • Serve as stew or over rice

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How’d it turn out?

I made the curry early.  One of my pups has a pack walk tonight.  No time to eat before and no interest in starting to cook after.  So, I cook before and eat after.  Extra time stewing in its own juices never hurt a stew or a curry.

Let’s start with the pluses.  The flavors are fantastic!  It tastes like sunshine.  It’s warm and delightful!  I’m imagining that it will help me get over a cold that’s trying to settle in.  It’ll be even better tomorrow I’m sure.  And it’s beautiful.  The colors are vibrant and warm.

What would I do differently?  First, I would chop the collards instead of slicing them in ribbons.  It was weird to have stringy collards in there.  And maybe next time I’d use chard if I wanted to add a green.  Second, I would serve it over rice, or even grits or polenta.  The broth is really flavorful, but it’s really thin.  It seems too thin for the chunky cauliflower and chickpeas.  And too thin for a curry.  Maybe you could blend some chickpeas with some broth and add it back to the pot, though that doesn’t seem right either.  Maybe some tomato paste cooked in.  I’ll have to try it again to see.

Here’s a link to the recipe that served as tonight’s inspiration.

And if you love cauliflower and chickpeas together as much as I do, here’s a Thai style curry I hope you’ll like too!

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