Recipe intimidation can come from many sources: a technique or an ingredient you’re not familiar with, or one you are — and know you don’t like. Or sometimes it’s cumulative. You read through and think: “Not all that. Not tonight.”
That’s where shortcuts come in.
Take a recipe I’ve been saving for tomato season, from “New Feast” by Greg and Lucy Malouf. Their Roasted Tomato and Chickpea Curry calls for a long list of spices and aromatics, but my mind went to store-bought curry paste — a quick, flavor-packed base for Thai-style curries. Would the substitution work? I thought so, because the dish also includes ginger, garlic, cilantro and coconut milk.
So 10 ingredients came out, one went in, and the dish’s flavors morphed pretty seamlessly from Indian to Thai.
My adaptation didn’t disturb the most obviously appealing thing about the recipe, which is that you briefly roast a couple of pounds of whole tomatoes, cut one of them up to go into the curry, and nestle the remaining ones in the pan.
It makes for a stunning presentation — especially when you leave the stems on the tomatoes. I brought the dish back to India again when I ate it with naan and yogurt, using the bread to smash the soft tomatoes and scoop them up with the chickpeas.
Messy. And interesting. But not intimidating in the least.