“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:
- 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.
- Add your carrots, toss, and simmer for another 2 minutes, until you hit the 5-minute mark.
- 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.