Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I have loved Indian food since the first time I tasted it. I was a vegetarian at the time, and maybe 17. I loved the flavors, the heat, the spices I'd never tried before! From day one, I was a convert. Our Hero and my first date included Indian food. In college, I went at least two times a month (and probably closer to once a week) with my buddies (hi J!). Several of them had spent time in Nepal and so we sometimes ate with our hands, as Nepali tradition dictated. (Caveat: the curry smell will outlast many, many handwashings.) At our Rehearsal Dinner for our wedding, Our Hero's family went all out with a beautiful and delicious Indian buffet (thanks, M!).

Suffice it to say, we're fans.

J got me the most wonderful book as a wedding gift: Neelam Batra's 1,000 Indian Recipes. I use it often and though my creations don't exactly mimic restaurants' dishes (due, I think to my not using pounds of ghee), they are delicious and the flavors are unmistakeably Indian.

Last night I made saag, or a spinach curry. This recipe is quite simple, and a nice way to ease into Indian cooking (I'm still easing!). I add plenty of cayenne to Batra's recipe to suit our taste for spicy, but do what pleases you best. Although I do have access to paneer cheese, an Indian cheese often simmered in curries (and a kind of cheese I can actually make!), I made this with tofu. One could simmer chicken, chickpeas, or a variety of other things in the sauce for dinner.

Spicy Pureed Spinach Greens
5 quarter-sized slices peeled fresh ginger
3 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1-2 green chile peppers, stemmed
2 (1-lb.) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 T. melted ghee or a mixture of butter and vegetable oil
1 t. cumin seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 T. ground coriander
1 t. garam masala
1/2 t. ground paprika
1 (15-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 T. unsalted butter, cream, or plain yogurt

In a food processor or blender, process ginger, garlic, and chiles until minced. Add spinach and puree.

Heat the ghee or oil in a wok or saucepan over medium-high heat and add the cumin seeds; they should sizzle. Quickly add onion and cook, stirring, until golden. Mix in the coriander, garam masala, and paprika (and cayenne, if you like!) then add the tomato sauce and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

Mix in the spinach puree and cook until it comes to a boil, about 2 minutes (you may need to add a little water). Simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer about 5 minutes. Mix in butter or cream. Serve over brown rice or with fresh naan, if you're lucky.

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