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These aren’t the ingredients you would expect to find in a traditional Thai curry, which is part of the reason I love this recipe so much. Thai red curry was one of my first forays into “exotic” ethnic food when I moved to California over a decade ago. I loved that I could add a dollop or two of bottled curry paste and – voila! – produce something that tasted somewhat authentic with minimal effort. It made me feel quite accomplished in my early days in the kitchen, in the midst of other, how can I say this politely, less successful (aka burnt) efforts.

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For quite a while, I stuck to the usual suspects for vegetables and protein – carrots, potatoes, broccoli, tofu and their friends. But the idea of chickpeas recently struck me as a great alternative. Chickpeas are packed with protein, easy to cook (as long as you’ve soaked them beforehand), and absorb the flavor of a sauce beautifully (chana masala, anyone?) The leeks were an inspired addition as well – not quite as assertive as onions, but a nice subtle flavor in the background. This is now my favorite version of Thai curry. It could work as a green curry too – just sub out one paste for the other. I continue to use bottled curry paste instead of making my own because that allows this to be a true weeknight dinner that comes together in under 30 minutes.

Thai Red Curry with Chickpeas and Leeks

Recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats

1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed + sliced

1/2 red pepper, sliced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

2 tablespoons red curry paste

1/2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp coriander-cumin powder

1/3 cup sugar snap peas, cut into thirds

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas

handful fresh spinach leaves

3 tablespoons freshly torn cilantro

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the coconut oil. Stir in the leeks, red peppers, salt and pepper and stir to toss. Cover and cook until the vegetables have slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic, ginger, curry paste, turmeric and coriander-cumin powder and stir to coat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the peas and coconut milk. Increase heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and cilantro and cook for 5 minutes more. Wilt in the spinach. Taste and season additionally if desired. Serve with white or brown rice.

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