Somewhere over the rainbow (curry)

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Susan France

Wind blew light rain this way and that as streams snaked down the sides of Pearl Street. The days are still hot and sunny, but evenings like this one make it obvious — fall is nipping at summer’s heels.

Soon, eating a cold salad will feel ludicrous when a hot casserole full of cheese and pasta will warm the very soul. But if you spend a whole winter eating casseroles, you’re going to be very displeased with yourself come spring.

Finding that perfect blend of healthy but filling, hearty but light, will become crucial in the coming months, and Zeal is one place where such juxtaposition exists.

Zeal was founded, it seems, on the idea that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for health, and eating “whole” and “unprocessed” foods doesn’t have to mean you spend a cold winter eating cold food.

So on this chilly, rainy evening, I made my way to Zeal to see if I could sate my need for something warm and satisfying without feeling guilty.

It’s a warm environment, for starters, with a few rows of micro greens sprouting under florescent lights at the host’s stand. The kitchen is open and the seating is snug, but not uncomfortable. The bar serves up Zeal’s own white and red wines on tap, plus a few other wines and microbrews. There are at least a dozen types of house-made smoothies, half a dozen organic cold-press juices and maybe eight or nine “other interesting beverages,” but we can’t get into all of that because I really went to Zeal to eat.

Cue the Rainbow Curry.

Curry is a versatile dish that originated in India. Today you can find it being served in nearly every corner of the world.

It was the British, actually, who dubbed the adaptable dish “curry,” as such meals had many names in India prior to their arrival.

The variety of dishes that we call curry here in the states can contain meat — fish, beef, chicken or shellfish, typically — or only veggies. The blend of herbs varies as well, just as it does from region to region in India, whole or ground, cooked or raw, and the very flavor of the herbs can change depending on the time at which they are added to the dish.

You can have a wet curry with lots of “gravy” based on yogurt, cream, legume purée, broth or, as we tend to eat it, coconut milk. A dry curry cooks all the liquid out and leaves the goodies, veggies or meats, coated in a delectable concoction of spices.

The folks at Zeal serve a dry curry using seasonal vegetables, toasted coconut and lentil sprouts over whole grain rice. The veggie selection was all autumn, with carrot cuts as thick as a pinkie finger, yellow squash, zucchini, parsnips and mushrooms. It was quite honestly a rainbow of veggies.

The coconut flavor of the dish was mild, and the toasted coconut really only serves to add a bit of texture. The vegetables came piping hot but still crispy in the case of the carrots, and firm in the case of the squashes and fungi.

But what serves the dish best is the portion of rice it comes with — just enough to sate the need for the traditional serving of rice that comes with curry, but not so much rice that you end up eating more rice than veggies. And with a bowl so chocked full of colorful vegetables, who wants to fill up on rice?

Zeal. 1710 Pearl St., Boulder, 720-708-6309.