penang vegetable curry

When I was new to Thai food I was a Pad Thai girl all the way.  Pad Thai seems to be the gateway food for many who are new to Thai cuisine, though I eventually did venture away from the noodle dish and experimented with Massaman curry and satay and various peanut-based curries.  Lately I’ve been really into Penang curry.

I’m not so well-versed in Thai food as to be able to tell you what makes Penang curry different from other curries, I just know that I like it and also that a local Asian grocer conveniently carries Penang curry paste.  Score.

I found a recipe for a simple vegetable curry to use as a guide and went from there.  The recipe called for sweet potatoes (love), cauliflower, and chickpeas (which I had cooked up myself from dried beans and stored in my freezer for later use a few months back).

I wanted to add a little more color to the curry so threw some frozen peas into the mix.

A little tip that I sort of feel like a genius for thinking up, though by no means do I think that I am the first one to have this thought: the recipe called for coconut milk and a cup of water so I emptied my can of coconut milk and then filled the can up with water and added that to the pot.  It made broth richer by getting a little more coconut milk in there and also cleaned out the can for recycling at the same time: two birds, one stone.  So simple, and yet I’d never thought to do this before.

The resulting curry tasted pretty much exactly like the Penang curry I often get at a local Thai restaurant so on nights I don’t feel like making the half hour drive for carry-out I can recreate it myself at home.  It would be especially excellent with a little Thai iced tea.

Penang Vegetable Curry (loosely adapted from “Simple Vegetable Curry” from Everyday Food magazine)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Penang curry paste
  • 13.5 oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 sweet potato (about  3/4 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 bag of frozen peas

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 minutes. Add curry paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Add sweet potato and cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir chickpeas into curry and increase heat to high. Simmer rapidly until liquid reduces slightly, 2 minutes. Serve curry over rice.

Brussels sprouts are your friends

Why do Brussels sprouts get such a bad rap?  It was always the food used as a threat by mothers in sitcoms when I was growing up so I think as a result I just never even tried one until I was an adult because I just assumed they would be gross.  Boy, was that assumption wrong!  They’re delicious.

I’ve been making them as a side dish at Thanksgiving for the past five or so years and they are almost always a hit.  (I say almost always because small children and my Grandma Molly are not big fans, but that just means more for the rest of us!)  I usually roast them until they get all brown and caramelized but a few years ago I ate them in a gratin at a fancy restaurant in New York and was inspired to seek out a recipe for this cooking method.

The recipe I found also involves cauliflower which is another vegetable that can sometimes get an undeserved bad rap.  Brussels sprouts and cauliflower smothered in cream and Parmesan cheese?  Yes, please!

This gratin also gets a crunchy topping courtesy of bread crumbs and toasted pine nuts.  This dish just might make it to my Thanksgiving table this year!

I will be tagging all Thanksgiving-worthy recipes as such to help you with your menu planning, so check back closer to the date if you are in need of some ideas.

Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts Gratin (found at www.epicurious.com)

Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings
  • 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed, quartered lengthwise through core
  • 1 1 1/2-to 1 3/4-pound head of cauliflower, trimmed, cut into small florets
  • 2 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 11/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Fill large bowl with ice and cold water. Cook brussels sprouts in large pot of generously salted boiling water 2 minutes. Add cauliflower to same pot; cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes longer. Drain. Transfer vegetables to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well.

Combine cream, shallots, and sage in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until mixture is reduced to 21/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs; stir until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool. Stir in pine nuts and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish; arrange half of vegetables in dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then 1 1/2 cups Parmesan. Arrange remaining vegetables evenly over, then sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 cups Parmesan. Pour cream mixture evenly over. DO AHEAD: Breadcrumb topping and gratin can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover gratin with foil. Bake covered 40 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle breadcrumb topping over and bake uncovered 15 minutes longer.