farmers’ market monday: veggie tray curry.

“Pop quiz, hot shot: there’s a party you will be having, and you will make a magnificent vegetable tray. Because you’re a good host/hostess, you will make sure you have way more food than your guests will be able to eat. When they leave, you will clean up and find you have an entire crisper drawer filled to the brim with chopped veggies, and a limited shelf life. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO!?!?!

Dramatic? Yes. But how many times has this exact same situation happened to you? You have a great party, and you spend tons of time chopping up beautiful veggies for your guests to dip away at, only to realize you over-purchased (again) and forgot the party-goers had about 16 other things to eat also? There’s no way they could actually demolish the tray you set out for them. So now you have tons of veggies left over, getting closer and closer to expiring as the minutes go by. It happens to me at almost every get-together I host. I eat raw veggies for lunch and dinner, but it’s in vain. Time for a better solution.

You don’t have to let fantastic veggies go to waste, nor do you have to dip your way into oblivion to try to thin the herd. Instead, you make this curry. It’s fast, involves precious few ingredients, and is also pretty healthy. Oh, and did I mention 3/4 of the work is already done for you? Because it is.

I should say that I realize everyone’s veggie tray is different, which is another reason this recipe is great; you can use what you want. I’m giving you what I use, but feel free to substitute other veggies you think will work, or switch up the quantities based on what you have left. Curries, in my opinion, have no set rules. Wing it.

My veggie tray is pretty standard: broccoli and cauliflower florets, strips of red pepper, carrot sticks, snow or sugar snap peas if I’m feeling fancy, and sometimes baby corn. I’m not a huge fan of celery, so more often than not I leave it out. As it turns out, all of these veggies work great with dips, and work fabulously together in this curry.

Once you have your veggies assembled, there’s not much you’ll need to do. I chop the baby corn in thirds, and I make my carrot sticks thinner by using a knife lengthwise or using my matchstick/julienne peeler on them. Add to that a little mild onion, light soy sauce, light coconut milk, and red curry paste, and you’ve got yourself a little party. You can serve this with a little fresh basil on top and a little rice underneath, if you wish. Most of the time, I forgo the rice and eat it vegetables-only.

No fish sauce, you say? No, not for this. I’m a big fan of the depth of flavor it gives to regular curries, but I’m using light ingredients here, which means thinner consistency. It also means strong flavors like fish sauce tend to go further, even in very small quantities. If I were using regular coconut milk (which has much more of a thick body to it), I would use a small amount of fish sauce. You do what you want, but too much fish sauce, and a dish can go from delicious and fresh to off-putting in no time. Look at it this way; I just saved you an extra ingredient.

Adapted from a Thai chicken curry recipe from my beloved local grocer’s monthly free magazine, Everybody Cooks, September 2012 edition. Thank you, Dierbergs Markets: I love you. More on how awesome they are (and why you should love your own local grocers) in future posts.

Veggie Tray Curry

  • 1 15-ounce can lite coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 3 tablespoons reduced=sodium soy sauce
  • 1 15-ounce can baby corn, drained and cut into thirds
  • 1 cup red bell pepper (about 1 pepper) cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup mild onion, either white or yellow, thinly sliced in rings and then halved (semi-circles, people)
  • 1 cup snow peas or sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced thinly into matchsticks
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup basil, julienned, for serving (I don’t consider this optional, because it adds important flavor to the finished dish; you’ll miss it if it’s gone.)
  • any type of rice you like (optional) for serving*

I’ll start this recipe by trusting you to have everything all chopped and ready to go. If you don’t have everything prepared and within reach, this will not go well for you. It’s so easy that the only thing you can do is make it more difficult on yourself. It goes fast, so stop right here and be sure you have everything out.

*rice: cook your particular choice of rice, if using, according to package directions. When serving on top of rice, this curry serves 4-6 easily. Portion your rice accordingly.

In a large skillet or wok (and if you have a wok, I applaud you; I have a large skillet. Moving on) over medium heat, add your coconut milk, soy sauce, and curry paste. Stir until incorporated, making sure to break up the paste and dissolve it into the mixture.

When your liquid begins to bubble, add your onions. Let them simmer until your mixture begins to bubble again. When you see this happen, crank up your heat to medium high, set your timer for 10 minutes, and add your veggies, using the order and the timing below.

Shannon, hold the phone: why are you being so strict? Short answer, to allow for optimal cooking times. All veggies cook differently, and you want this to all come together at the end without anything getting sogged out on you. I like my veggies a little cooked yet crisp and fresh-tasting, so if you like that too, this is how you accomplish it. Additionally, you’ll have probably already noticed by this point that your veggies are pretty voluminous for the liquid. If you cook groups of them down, it’s easier to get them all in the sauce. 

Back to the recipe. Using two large spoons (so you can toss your veggies in the sauce with efficiency), add your veggies as follows:

  1. Add your broccoli and cauliflower right as you set the timer for 10 minutes. Toss around in sauce to coat until your timer hits 7 minutes.
  2. Add your carrots, toss, and simmer for another 2 minutes, until you hit the 5-minute mark.
  3. Add everything else (red pepper, baby corn, peas of your choosing) and simmer until everything is lightly cooked and heated through. This should take a total, start to finish, of between 8-10 minutes, depending on how your oven and vessel cook, how high your “medium-high” is, and – most importantly – how you like your curry.

Portion onto 4-6 plates or low bowls (rice-covered or not) and sprinkle basil overtop. Serve immediately.

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  • Reply movita beaucoup August 27, 2012 at 6:22 am

    Thank you for this public service announcement. I have left over veggies all of the time. (I guess I have sugar-obsessed guests.) Also, red curry paste was on sale at the grocery store a while ago, and now I have like, three bottles to use up…

    Um, not to nitpick, but why didn’t you create any sort of sculpture from the veggies? Are you over veggie owls?

    • Reply shannon August 27, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      it’s the responsible thing to do, given the veggie neglect/involuntary manslaughter which goes in after parties. I also have sugar-obsessed guests; that chocolate malt cake? NONE LEFT. get to work on that curry paste (and i hope those were little bottles, although they say it keeps “indefinitely” in the fridge. hmm. weird.

      veggie owls are SOOOOO last week. i would imagine you’ll see some sort of acorn squash owl in the fall, however. it’s in the upcoming collection of random things i do with food. maybe i carve a pumpkin into something awesome; who knows. OR MAYBE I ENTER GINGER 2012 FOR THE FIRST. TIME. EVER.
      that right there is a hint.

  • Reply Emma August 27, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I’m a curry fiend, making up for the first 97% of my life, when it was noticeably absent. A sad 97% it was. I’ll probably never buy light coconut milk though… I love that little bit of cream too much!

    Ugh, too much fish sauce. ’nuff said.

    • Reply shannon August 27, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      we’re like long-lost sisters: do you know i never even tasted curry until i was in my early twenties? ridiculous. don’t make me do more math today, but that’s probably (scibblescribblepaperuncrumplescribblecrossoutscribble) most of my life.

      i knew you wouldn’t use light coconut milk, dear. 🙂 confession: this is great with the light, as i am trying to wade my way through losing a few cake/cookie pounds put on this past year, but if i were feeling frisky? full-fat for me too. coconut milk is something you really can taste the difference with, which is why no fish sauce; too easy to mess up without the full-fat cream buffer.

      man, so with you. too much fish sauce is WHOA GROSS. not even just a little.

      • Reply Emma August 27, 2012 at 2:38 pm

        i have made grave errors with fish sauce estimation amounts before. and by estimation, i mean my hand must have slipped or something. it was that bad. it makes me shudder to recollect!

        i was hoping you’d give me a bit more of that scribblescribblescratchheadscribblecrossoutscribbleahacomputationscomplete business 😉

        • Reply Emma August 27, 2012 at 2:38 pm

          hey i went off the page again!

          • shannon August 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm

            i need to work on this little coding issue. it’s like terminal indent. talk to much? you get shoved off a (text) cliff. 🙂

  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina August 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    I need you to come cook this for me since I’m working again. My body is craving pretty food, and all I have time for is brown.

    Send help fast.

    • Reply shannon August 27, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      oh no; it’s like “50 shades of beige” then at Casa Juanita, then. 🙁 i had a feeling…sometimes since we know each other (like friend-know) i can hear it in your writing voice (that’s just me; since i talk like i write, i can listen to other people “talk” too.) you are busy. like, SO busy.

      maybe this could be written off as a business expense. you see, i have what one could call a business with this little blog (it’s like a non-profit, because i don’t make money) and my Wee is really big into this one cartoon about a little girl who pretends to be a doctor. So she’s got a play doctor set now. which means i could come down and cook for you, she could monitor your vitals or something, and do lots of checking your eyes and ears and nose. during her breaks she could play with the boys.

      i’ve got this all worked out. we’ll come help. the doctor and her crazy-cooking mother are on their way to take care of you. alert the wife.

  • Reply natalie August 29, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    this looks and sounds amazing (and healthy). after my two weeks of binge-eating my way across the midwest (+ boston) my body has been begging me for veggies. I admit that my veggie-only recipes are rather limited… i’ll have to give this one a whirl 🙂

    and omg, i tried to make garlic pepper chicken (thai style) and the recipe called for 3 Tbsp fish sauce, I was PRETTY SURE that it was a mistake, I mean, it definitely seemed a little over the top… but I googled a couple more recipes and they all referred me back to that one…. it’s the only dish i’ve ever made that i had to dump directly into the trash (and then make BF take the trash IMMEDIATELY to the dumpster)… fail … i was so traumatized by it that i’ve never tried to make the dish again… and I never put more than like 3 drops of fish sauce in anything, ever. traumatized.

    • Reply shannon August 30, 2012 at 5:21 am

      i have heard more stories/outcry about fish sauce, and i’m so happy i’m not the only one who’s had an issue with it. because fish sauce? it’s a dream-killer, if you’re trying to make something and add more than you should. and by “add more,” i mean like a drop more. I don’t know what sort of magic they weave at the thai takeout places with fish sauce, but they are the only ones who really know how to work with it correctly. Or perhaps those same thai places all got together long ago (like before the beginning of time), made this seriously strange substance called “fish sauce” and convinced everyone to add it to their thai dishes. they knew it would screw up everything, and poof: all of us would order thai takeout. hmm.

      you know, there’s too much cake going on here most days. or cake-related items. i know you can sympathize. i’m currently eating a mostly veggies-only diet just to detox from well, life, and also to prep myself for thanksgiving and christmas. because i need to be a lightweight going in, you know? 🙂

  • Reply Katherine @ eggton September 5, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I can’t believe you pulled out the Speed reference. I spent the 1990s saying “what would you do. WHAT WOULD YOU. DO.”

    And horray for local grocers and this awesome veggie situation you have going on.

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