Saag with collards, kale and spinach

So, a confession. I refused to eat Indian food for a fairly absurd amount of time. It smells weird! The spices are unfamiliar! I’m stubborn! I got along pretty well for refusing to eat an entire subcontinent’s native food, but when I moved to San Francisco my friends decided that this could no longer stand. I helped one friend make curry, and had another patiently guide me through the menu to find things I would probably like. Sure enough, as always, they were right. Indian food is nummy! So now, as always, I’ve decided that I need to learn how to cook it! Which coincided conveniently with my Meatless May and brings us to the inaugural dinner: Saag with collards, kale and spinach!

I got this recipe from a blog called Herbivoracious, which is really good, except that the author seems to have a pressure cooker fetish. I’ve actively disliked pressure cookers since one erupted a Vesuvius of beans at my stepmother in high school and I had to clean up the resulting carnage. But, that aside, you should check out his blog! Also, he has a cookbook.

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Saag with Collard Greens, Kale and Spinach
Vegetarian and gluten free
Serves 4 as part of a larger Indian dinner
15 minutes active (1 hour total) 

For the spice mixture:

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground asoefetida (hing)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (preferably freshly grated, use a bit more if not)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
  1. Place all ingredients in a small bowl.

For the saag:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch collard greens (about 1 pound total kale and collard greens)
  • 10 ounce package frozen spinach (or 1 pound fresh baby spinach, washed)
  • 3 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (I used full fat)
  1. Strip the coarse stems from their kale and collard greens, chop them roughly, and wash them in three changes of warm water in a large bowl. Drain off the water, add the spinach, and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a very large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the spice mixture and stir until fragrant but not burning, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the greens and 1/2 cup water. Toss with tongs, then cover. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook, tossing occasionally, until completely tender and wilted, about 45 minutes, adding a bit more water if needed.
  4. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the yogurt. Taste and adjust seasoning. Gently reheat, but don’t bring all the way up toward a simmer or the yogurt may break.

I also made cous cous, because…well, because it’s delicious, and I have no respect for different cultures’ culinary traditions. It worked well with this, though, the texture complimented the tender greens and the flavor didn’t overwhelm it.

One of the things I like about cooking Indian is the colors — they’re so vibrant!

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This isn’t a great example, but I wanted to show off a new spice I just discovered for this recipe: asafoetida. Wikipedia doesn’t tell me how to pronounce it, but it does say that it’s native to Afghanistan, and can be used as a digestive aid, since it relieves flatulance. So, next time you’re feeling a little airy, don’t reach for the Beano, grab this instead!

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