Fall is officially here! It’s my favorite season! Cool crisp air, sweaters (but no snow), beautiful leaves, no more humidity, apple-picking and pumpkins! Fall in the kitchen is also a delight because I don’t dread standing over a hot oven; I can cook with the windows open; and fresh herbs from our little potted garden are still available.
In the spirit of the season, I made coconut-pumpkin curry a couple of weeks ago to start my fall cooking. Since it was still a little early in the season, I actually made this with canned pumpkin puree, rather than roasted pumpkin pieces. The pumpkin puree gives this a really creamy texture and its fast enough for a weeknight meal. I served this over quinoa. I loved that the curry sauce evenly coats the veggies, and seeps into the quinoa but is not runny or soupy. The fresh lime juice brightens everything up and in addition to fresh Thai chilies in the recipe, we enjoyed the final dish with pickled Thai chilies we made.
Note that there is fish sauce so this isn’t a vegetarian recipe, but omit the fish sauce and it transforms into a vegetarian (maybe even vegan?) recipe. Meat lovers could throw in some chicken or beef, but I used tofu to keep this lighter but still pack in a protein punch. Also I had a bunch of veggies on hand, so I probably went a little overboard with my veggies. The recipe below is the way I made this for the photos, but you add as many or as few of the veggies I threw into the pot. Feel free to experiment with other veggies too! You can get Thai red curry paste and fish sauce at international markets or in the international aisle of larger urban grocery stores.
PUMPKIN COCONUT CURRY
1 13.5 oz. can coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
1/2 of a 15 oz. can pure pumpkin puree (I prefer Libbys, make sure you are not using pumpkin pie filling. You can put the rest of the puree into an ice-cube tray for little frozen servings of pumpkin for another use.)
¼ cup Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 2-inch slice ginger, peeled
1 small red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 Thai chilies chopped (optional, I kept the seeds in for heat, but remove the seeds if you don’t want a lot of heat)
2 Chinese eggplants, cut into 2 inch chunks (learn more about eggplant types here)
1 red pepper sliced into long strips
1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
2 slices of firm tofu (approx. 3 oz. per slice), cut into 1 inch cubes
½ roasted peanuts (I like them whole, but you can definitely chop these)
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro (optional)
In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk together the coconut milk, pumpkin, and curry paste. Keep this over low heat, whisking occasionally.
In a pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the onions are soft. Add the garlic, mushrooms, red pepper, Thai chilies and eggplant and cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the eggplants are soft, about 3-5 minutes. (Note Chinese eggplants will cook much faster than traditional North American eggplants and are sweeter and less bitter, so I strongly recommend Chinese eggplants over the American or Italian eggplant.)
Once the veggies have softened, add the green beans, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the ginger from the pot. Turn off the heat on the curry sauce and pour the curry sauce over the veggies. Stir slowly to coat the veggies. Add the tofu and peanuts and stir in carefully, taking care not to break up the tofu too much.
Let everything simmer on low heat for another 3-4 minutes. Serve over rice or quinoa, squeeze the lime juice over, and top with some fresh cilantro!