Vegetarian Red Curry with Brown Rice

IMG_2114We’ve been enjoying our “Vegetarian Wednesday” tradition quite heartily, lately. As I mentioned in a recent entry, a lot of vegetarian recipes lean toward exotic tastes. While it isn’t something we want every day — I do appreciate homey, classic vegetarian dishes — sometimes a little touch of the exotic is just what you need on a blustery, cold, weeknight when the weekend (like the winter sun) is just barely visible on the horizon.

Though it features exotic tastes, today’s recipe is quite simple. If you stroll through the ingredient list, you’ll notice that — with the exception of fresh cilantro (which I do freeze, actually) — all of the produce called IMG_2110for is right at home in a wintry recipe. Back in the days before supermarkets and agribusiness shaped our foodways, winter was a time when — in order to survive — folks looked to their root cellars and pantries to sustain them. These days, we can approximate that wise thriftiness by buying fruits and vegetables when they are in season; buying them frozen or preserved when they’re not in season.

The elements of exotica — though not likely to have been produced anywhere near you — are quite common in your supermarket and do keep well in the pantry or refrigerator once opened. The best part is that — even though they’re “fancy” ingredients — they’re no more expensive than some items on your ordinary grocery list.

You can find Red Curry Paste down the Asian or ethnic food aisle (usually near such ingredients as soy sauce, hoisin sauce, etc.). It’s a potent mixture of red chilies, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and a few other IMG_2118spices. I can’t think of a proper substitution for this ingredient, but you may be able to find recommendations by searching online.

Don’t be afraid of tofu — despite what you may’ve heard! Tofu tastes like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. In fact, tofu tastes like NOTHING! How could you say you don’t like it? Think of tofu as a blank canvas; it will readily take on any flavors you ask it to while adding lots of protein. For this recipe, be sure to buy “extra-firm” tofu so that it will hold its shape nicely. The only other requirement is that you remove it from the water it’s packed in, surround it with a thick layer of paper towels, and then place a heavy skillet or other weight on top of it for about 30 minutes so that the excess water drains out. Don’t use anything too heavy! After 30 minutes, the tofu will be primed for maximum flavor absorption.

IMG_2121Coconut milk is usually found down the same aisle as curry paste. This recipe calls for lite coconut milk, but — if you aren’t able to find that — regular coconut milk will do just fine (I won’t tell). Will this dish taste like coconut? Not really. While most people equate coconut with the sweetened, shredded stuff put in cakes and pies or plastered to the side of fried shrimp, coconut is actually quite a complex flavor. Coconut milk (made from unsweetened coconut and water) adds a creamy texture and a hint of sweetness that balances out the spiciness of the curry paste and cayenne pepper.

Vegetarian Red Curry with Brown Rice
Adapted from Eating Well Magazine
Serves 4

    Brown Rice:
    1 tablespoon canola oil
    1 cup long-grain brown rice
    2 1/4 cups hot water
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

    Red Curry:
    14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained (see above), cut into 1-inch cubes
    2 teaspoons canola oil
    1 pound sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
    1 medium onion, sliced vertically into 1/2-inch slices
    1 14-ounce can lite coconut milk
    1/2 cup vegetable broth
    2 teaspoons red curry paste
    1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
    1/2 pound frozen cut green beans, thawed
    1 tablespoon sucanat or brown sugar
    2 teaspoons lime juice
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

    Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until oil is shimmering. Stir in rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes or until rice begins to appear translucent on the ends of the grains. Add the hot water, slowly; stirring gently. Add kosher salt; bring mixture to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer; cook 40-45 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving.

    Meanwhile, preheat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook, stirring every 2 or 3 minutes, until browned on most sides, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

    Add 2 teaspoons of oil to skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sweet potato and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, broth, curry paste, and cayenne. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is nearing tender, about 4 minutes. Add the sliced onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until slices begin to turn translucent. Add the tofu, green beans and sucanat; return to a simmer and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the green beans are tender-crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in lime juice and salt. Serve over brown rice; sprinkle with cilantro.

IMG_2128
Served atop hearty brown rice, this easy curry is a perfect accompaniment to a cozy night at home. I served this in some take-out containers we’d saved just to show you how authentic the presentation can be! Why bring home take-out or call in for delivery when you can have a healthy, exotic meal right from your own kitchen in about 40 minutes?

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~ by Jason on February 10, 2011.

5 Responses to “Vegetarian Red Curry with Brown Rice”

  1. I can’t wait to try this one, Jason. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. wait…I’m replacing that Thai place I order from with your phone number in my contacts list. 🙂

  3. Well maybe you should deliver 🙂 Ill help….
    I know I could live without meat I love veggies 🙂
    Go into business filling orders and shipping .
    I’ll help 🙂
    love ya’ll mom

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