When I go to Thai restaurants, I spend a fair amount of time poring over the menu and weighing my options. Usually, my dining companions have long since decided by the time I sigh, close the menu, and announce that I’m getting what I always get: vegetable red curry.

Curry in a hurry, neither furry nor blurry.

I’ve attempted to make it before, but never before have I hit the jackpot. (Errors I won’t make again: (1) using “light” coconut milk, (2) putting frozen vegetables directly into the pot without thawing them first, and (3) failing to gradually add curry paste and taste to ensure the right level of heat.) This recipe, though, is perfectly lush, perfectly spicy, and comes together in no time at all, using whatever vegetables you have lying around your kitchen. It’s tom kha gai plus freezer tikka masala. It’s my new go-to dish for when I need delicious dinner, fast.

Vegetable red curry
Adapted from Rachael Ray

I happened to have spinach, a bell pepper, and some adorable tiny eggplants, so that’s what I used. That combination worked quite well, but this will work with anything at all.

One 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons red curry paste (the amount to use depends on the brand and your spice tolerance; I’d say start with 1 tablespoon and add as needed. I found this amount to be pleasingly spicy)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt
1 bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
3 baby eggplants, sliced into small rounds
5 oz baby spinach

In a medium saucepan, bring half the coconut milk to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Cook, swirling the pan, until it thickens and forms large bubbles around the edge, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the curry paste until combined and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup water, the remaining coconut milk, fish sauce and brown sugar; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes; season to taste with salt.

Stir in the bell pepper and eggplant and simmer, stirring, until vegetables are tender. When vegetables are almost done, stir in spinach to wilt.

Serves 2.

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