On rainy spring nights, when it’s cold and gray, curries make a warming, colorful meal.

With a few shortcuts and some help from good-quality prepared spice pastes, a fine stew can be ready in a hurry. While there are plenty of recipes for authentic Thai or Indian dishes, my curries are seat-of-the pants affairs.

Curry paste, sold in small jars, is potent stuff. Just a couple of tablespoons will heat up a dish for four to six. Once opened, the jars will last at least two months in the refrigerator, ready to season soups, rub over roast chicken, spice up scrambled eggs, spark mayonnaise and yogurt dips, and embolden stews of chicken, fish, vegetables and tofu.

They rely on different chiles and spices for their flavors, levels of heat and colorful hues. Red curry paste is the most versatile, made with red chiles and tomato paste. Yellow curry paste, seasoned with turmeric and lots of ginger, is a bit milder and a tad sweeter than the red. Green curry paste, the most popular in Thai cuisine, is made with green chiles, as well as cilantro, makrut lime leaf and peel, and basil. I use them interchangeably.

Awaiting the harvest of local vegetables at farmers markets and co-ops, I’m working through the stash of frozen cauliflower, carrots and peas in my freezer. This curry makes those half-bags of freezer-weary veggies shine.

You can use any combination of vegetables, fresh or frozen. Toss in roast chicken or cooked shrimp, if you like, and serve over cooked barley, wheat berries or rice, with a few toasted pitas to wipe up the bowl. Dinner is on!

 

Vegetable Curry

Serves 4.

Note: The jarred Thai curry pastes speed the prep time in this dish. Substitute yellow or green curry paste, if you prefer, and adjust the quantity of lime juice or honey to taste. You can add leftover cooked chicken or shrimp for a heartier meal. A few spoonfuls of honey and lime juice give it a kick. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 tbsp. coconut or vegetable oil

• 1 tbsp. red curry paste or more to taste (see Note)

• 1 small onion, chopped

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 c. vegetable or chicken stock

• 1 c. unsweetened canned coconut milk or half and half

• 4 to 5 c. fresh or frozen vegetables, cut into 2- to 3-in. pieces (carrots, cauliflower, red peppers, peas)

• 1 c. cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

• 2 tbsp. honey, or to taste

• 2 tbsp. fresh lime or lemon juice, to taste

• Cooked barley, wheat berries or rice

• Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

Directions

In a large deep pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat and sauté the curry paste with the onion until it softens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the stock, coconut milk, and the vegetables.

Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are just tender. The fresh vegetables will take about 8 to 10 minutes, the frozen vegetables will need only about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and season with the honey and lime juice to taste. Serve over cooked barley, wheat berries or rice. Garnish with the cilantro or parsley.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 210 Fat 6 g

Sodium 440 mg Carbohydrates 36 g

Saturated fat 4 g Added sugars 11 g

Protein 7 g Cholesterol 0 mg

Dietary fiber 7 g

Exchanges per serving: 2 ½ carb, 1 medium-fat protein.

 

Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.