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Coconut Curried Vegetable Stew

['1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable broth or water', '1 medium onion, finely chopped', '2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced', '4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced', '4 medium potatoes, any variety, peeled and diced', '1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces', '1 to 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, or to taste', '2 to 3 teaspoons good- quality curry powder, or to taste', '1 teaspoon ground cumin', '1/2 teaspoon turmeric', '1 to 2 small fresh hot chili peppers, seeded and minced (optional)', '1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk', '8 to 10 ounces green beans (fresh or organic frozen) or slender asparagus, cut into 1- to 2-inch lengths', '3 to 4 ounces baby spinach', '1/4 to 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro, plus more for topping', 'Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste']

Heat the oil, broth, or water in a large soup pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat until the onion is golden. Add the carrots, potatoes, and 2 cups water and bring to a rapid simmer. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are about half tender.
Add the cauliflower, ginger, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, chili peppers (if desired), and coconut milk. Return to a simmer; add the green beans or asparagus. Continue to simmer gently, covered, until the vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes longer.
Mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon to thicken the stew’s base. Stir in the spinach and cilantro and cook just until the spinach is wilted. The stew should have a thick consistency, with just enough liquid to warrant serving it in bowls rather than on a plate. Adjust the liquid with water or nondairy milk, keeping in mind that as the stew stands, it will thicken. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

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