Discovering coconut milk

Yes, I’ve had curries at Indian, Thai, and other restaurants, but I’ve never made anything with coconut milk that tasted good—until now.

California curry with red lentils and vegetables

I call it a “California curry” to distance it from a specific world cuisine, given I combined the flavors of New Mexico chile powder, olive tapenade, and whole-fat coconut milk without a hint of curry paste. The red lentils give the rich coconut sauce a nice thickness. I served this curry over packaged precooked polenta that I sliced and broiled until crisp.

  • coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • leeks, cut crosswise into rings
  • potatoes, cut into 1/2-in. dice
  • zucchini or other summer squash, cut into 1/2-in. dice
  • cauliflower, cut in half and then into 1-in. steaks
  • full-fat coconut milk
  • vegetable broth
  • red lentils
  • chile powder, such as New Mexico and/or chipotle
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive tapenade or pitted chopped olives
  • hot sauce (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leeks, potatoes, zucchini, and cauliflower. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Add coconut milk and vegetable broth to just cover vegetables (use water if needed). Bring to a simmer and stir in lentils and chile powder. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils and vegetables are soft. Add more water if needed so the sauce doesn’t get too thick.
  3. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and olive tapenade. Serve with your favorite hot sauce if you like.
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