Cozy Crockpot Cooking: Cauliflower Chickpea Curry
Here is the story of a woman that loves coconut milk curry, chickpeas and fresh vegetables that will not give up her homemade ways of eating well while driving around doing so many things. So she bought a crockpot. Does this sound like you? I must confess: I'm the woman that loves creamy coconut milk curries with chickpeas and freshly roasted veggies like cauliflower and zucchini, and oh, roasted garlic that melts in the mouth.
October weather here in Los Angeles is unpredictably warm, but a few days we noticed fall approaching. I'm not into the cold weather, as a self-proclaimed "summer" person, but perhaps the intensely broiling summer has changed me. The other morning, as I awoke to the faint ringtone of my 6:00 am alarm, I heard the gentle patter on rainfall. (I also heard my sweetie snoring, as usual.) It rained, and gloriously so. I jumped out of my cozy bed and threw open windows, nearly spinning around like a little girl on Christmas day, so thrilled that rain had finally come. The sliding glass door to the backyard whooshed in the earthy scent of damp soil. Rain, rain, rain. I was about to sing "The Rain in Spain..." in my best My Fair Lady rendition while brewing up coffee and tea, however, before a morning cup my husky voice was better to sing "Stormy Weather" a la Sarah Vaughan. I had to get ready for the day, and quick.
Recently while shopping in the supermarket for our weekly usuals-- lunch making ingredients and the like-- my youngest daughter and I spotted a sale on crockpots. I used to shun this sort of cooking, believing that I could do it all, and do it fresh, making everything from scratch rather than cutting down cooking time for dinner-- well this was crazy making. Not only for me, but for my hungry children. It was my former belief that homemade pesto must be whizzed up fresh from the blender before tossing into pasta. I'd be a tad more cray to make the pasta myself (which I am tempted to do, but I have some semblance of sensibility). I could make the handmade pasta in bulk and freeze it. But weeknights are not always perfect dinners. More often I'd swing by somewhere and pick up fried rice and veggies and plop! There's dinner.
So in comes the crockpot.
If I'm giving in to a long legacy of family-style time saving meal strategies (aka the crockpot), I'll do it on my own terms, and that means, freshly roasted veggies and homemade chickpea curry goes into the slow cooker.
Here's what happened: I roasted veggies on a sheetpan, then I created the crockpot curry. I put all ingredients into the crockpot, and left it alone from morning until dinnertime. We did our usual day: kids dropped off at school, I went to my day job. I didn't eat a burrito in the minivan. The kids didn't whine about hunger and insist we pick up burritos or fried rice and stuff. We just came home and ate our crockpot dinner, and we were happy for it.
It lasted throughout the week, which meant I ate it for lunch and dinner myself. Anything to keep me eating something nourishing rather than going too long without eating (because I'm busy) and eating a burrito in the minivan while driving (my unfortunate reality) because I'm beyond hangry and my blood sugar dropped so low that I'm a dangerous hungry person behind the wheel in Los Angeles traffic.
All because I refuse to eat crap.
Not all of my cooking and dining experiences are long, pleasurable frolicking feasts with vegetables, I'll have you know. Most of the time it's avocado toast, an egg on something, tea with coconut milk, and cold coffee sipped from my sweetie's endless mug o' coffee, mixed with the questionable half and half creamer that I disapprove of. Lunch is an apple, maybe. Almond butter on a cracker, possibly. A splurge on a green smoothie from a juice bar if I'm lucky. Maybe I'll grab a veggie burrito somewhere, if I can. So it's time that I get real on the daily meals, and fix up good food in a crockpot.
I love chickpeas, curry and roasted cauliflower. So I put them all together in the crockpot and it was marvelous.
Crockpot Cauliflower Chickpea Curry
1 head of cauliflower, roasted
4-5 carrots, roasted and chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 zucchini, roasted and chopped into bite-sized pieces
5-6 tablespoons olive oil, generously tossed into veggies
8-12 garlic cloves
1/2 qt vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
2 cans chickpeas, drained
handful of basil leaves, plus more for garnish
3-4 kaffir lime leaves (can be found at Asian markets and/or World Market)
1 tbl green curry paste
1/2 knob fresh ginger, grated
handful cilantro, garnish (optional)
sprinkle of curry powder (mild/medium) I used a Vietnamese brand "Sing Kung" mild
Set the oven to 375F to roast. Toss the chopped veggies in a bowl with olive oil and garlic cloves. Sprinkle with sea salt and a pinch of mild curry powder. Spread the veggies out on a large roasting pan and put into the oven for about 30-45 minutes, until lightly roasted.
Meanwhile, set the crockpot anywhere between 4-6 hours. If you cannot set the hours, place your setting to allow the chickpeas to cook in the curry for an afternoon. I prepped the ingredients the night before and stored the veggies and curry broth separately, assembling all into the crockpot that morning and enjoyed dinner that night.
Add all of the following ingredients: vegetable broth, coconut milk, chickpeas, basil leaves, kaffir lime leaves, green curry paste, curry powder. Allow the curry to cook while waiting for the roasted veggies. Once the roasted veggies are done, add them to the crockpot. Stir the curry to incorporate all of the veggies into the curry. Allow to slowly cook in the crockpot.
You can make adjustments to the curry spice level (I prefer mild for this type of curry) as well as additions to flavor and ingredients. I love ginger and add lots to my curry pot.
Additions: you can add peas, green lentils, and other veggies that you enjoy, such as green beans, chopped kale, spinach, etc.
Serve over steamed brown rice or quinoa or any grain of your choice.
Garnish with cilantro and basil leaves.