- Melissa Pasanen
- Cooking curry together over FaceTime
Most of us are stuck at home with far more meals to feed ourselves than normal. Some have added a second full-time job of caring for kids and managing their schoolwork. We’re trying to minimize our trips to buy ingredients. When we do venture out, there is pressure to be efficient, but also flexible if favorite or desired items are out of stock.
On the plus side, in between juggling the rest of our lives from home, we have more time to simmer up homemade meals and bake, if Instagram parades of crusty loaves are any indication.
For some people, cooking can be relaxing. Especially if someone else does the dishes. (Assign the kids clean-up duties and award them extra credit for life skills.)
Whichever camp you fall in, our Home on the Range cooking column is here to help. We’ll offer a couple of simple, flexible recipes each week, including some from local chefs — many of whom are also cooking more at home these days.
This first recipe is an example of a basic method with lots of options to use what you have on hand. I cooked it a couple weeks ago over FaceTime with my brother-in-law, Conor. He used chicken; I stuck with vegetables. I had coconut milk on hand; he didn’t and used plain yogurt.
Conor and my youngest sister, Julia, are thirtysomethings expecting their first baby in mid-June. She’s a great cook but needs a break, so he’s trying to step up to cook a couple times a week.
What he lacks in kitchen experience, Conor makes up in willingness to learn. (Sorry, Con, I’ve got to share how you didn’t know the difference between a tablespoon (big T) and teaspoon (little t), resulting in a very spicy pasta sauce.) What I’m trying to say is, if Conor can do it, so can you.
The results have been pretty good; Julia has given Conor a solid B+ on our last two efforts. After we cook, my husband and I sit down to eat “with” them. It connects us regularly in a way we wouldn’t have experienced when we were living our busy, pre-pandemic lives in NYC and Vermont, respectively. (See this recent Stuck in Vermont episode for a brother and sister who’ve been doing this for several years.)
For a few hours, our worries fade to the background while we focus on feeding those we love.
- Melissa Pasanen
- Stirring roasted cauliflower into the curry
Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry (Optional Chicken)Makes about 4 servings (more if using chicken).
For optional chicken:
- ½ cup plain yogurt (sub: the thick top layer from a can of full-fat coconut milk)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder, to taste
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, trimmed and cut into bite-size cubes
- About half a large head of cauliflower, including stem and ribbed leaves, cut into bite-size pieces (sub: broccoli, or 1 pound turnips or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces)
- 2 tablespoons oil, plus a little for oiling the chicken pan if needed (coconut, canola, olive)
- 3 teaspoons curry powder, divided
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated, or ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
- About 1½ cups (14-ounce can) diced tomatoes (sub: whole or crushed tomatoes; if using whole tomatoes, break them up with hands or use kitchen scissors to snip them before adding)
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (sub: cooked or canned beans or lentils)
- 1 pound fresh spinach or 10-ounce package frozen, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible (sub: baby kale or ribboned chard; 1½ cups thawed frozen peas)
- 1 cup coconut milk (sub: ½ cup plain yogurt or heavy cream, or skip)
- If using chicken, at least 30 minutes and up to several hours before you plan to start cooking, whisk together yogurt, 1 teaspoon curry powder and salt. Taste and add curry powder if desired. Stir in chicken and refrigerate, covered.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of oil, 1½ teaspoons curry powder and ½ teaspoon coarse salt. If using chicken, lightly oil another rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and spread marinated chicken evenly in the pan. Roast cauliflower and chicken for about 20 to 25 minutes until browned and chicken is cooked through, stirring each pan once. Set aside.
- In a large sauté pan, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. When a drop of water sizzles in the oil, add onion with ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes until softened. Reduce heat to medium and stir in garlic, ginger and remaining 1 ½ teaspoons curry powder. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes and remaining teaspoon salt to the pan. Stir to combine and scrape up any brown bits from bottom of pan.
- Stir in chickpeas, spinach and coconut milk. Cover to wilt spinach for about 3 minutes. Uncover and stir. Stir in roasted cauliflower and chicken, if using. Bring to a simmer and add a little water if needed to keep it saucy. Simmer gently (especially if using yogurt) for about 5 to 7 minutes until everything is hot. Taste and add more curry powder or salt as desired. Serve over rice.