I bet when you think of a full-tomato-sauce-blooded Italian plotting ways to duplicate beloved Indian dishes, your gut tells you that somebody’s had too much wine and should probably quit while they’re ahead. Personally speaking, this is pretty much true with every non-Italian dish I’ve ever attempted to make on my own (Asian, Thai, Japanese, Indian–you name it), but I recently came across a recipe that, through a few modifications based on my personal taste, seemed to finally break the barrier.
I’ve ‘tested’ this dish three times since my initial modifications, and have been pleased with the results each time. That said, I think this is a pretty solid–undoubtedly bastardized from what you’d actually be served in India, but solid nonetheless–version of the traditional Indian dish, Saag Paneer.
I invite all Italians and non-Italians and curious cats to give this one a try–despite all the text, this is really a simple dish to make and great for multi-tasking. (Also, in case you missed it, the original recipe can be viewed at the link above.)
- 1/2 medium to small onion, chop-mashed (in Andrea language, that means mined as finely as possible, and then mashed with a spoon)
- Approx. 1/2 tbsp. of garlic puree (this can be bought in small jars or paste tubes–try to purchase the one with the smallest ingredient list)
- Small nub of garlic, the size of a nickel or quarter, mined as finely as possible
- 1 lb. frozen spinach, thawed
- 1 cup plain milk yogurt (I’ve been using low-fat, but suspect that whole milk might actually be better for this recipe)
- 4 oz. buttermilk (makeshift buttermilk recipe here)
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 tsp. red chili powder
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 2-3 whole cloves
- 1/2 tbsp. (or less) of dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp. garam masala (4 tsp if you prefer spicier)
- 6 oz. paneer cheese
- Salt, to taste
- Grind onion, garlic and ginger into a fine paste, using a small food processor. NOTE: Even with the food processor, it’s difficult to get the onion into a paste (I even tried mashing it with a mortar and pestle but that didn’t do anything but make a mess). So once I got it into the Dutch Oven, I used an immersion blender to make it as fine as possible—this satisfied me [enough].
- In medium saucepan (I recommend a Dutch Oven), combine paste, spinach, yogurt, buttermilk, chili powder, garam masala, cinnamon stick, clove, and brown sugar. Simmer at medium heat for 20-30 minutes. I recommend half-covering the lid; stir occasionally.
- Mash the ingredients with an immersion blender (avoid destroying cinnamon stick) or potato masher. Add half and half, and simmer until mixture has creamy consistency, 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, cut paneer into 1/2-inch(ish) cubes.
- When mix seems creamy and a thicker consistency, add paneer. Simmer 5 minutes, and season with salt. Serve with naan and/or basmati rice. (I really like this dish with coconut basmati rice).
Yields 4-6 servings.
Like always, if you try this out and make your own successful alterations, be sure to post a comment! I’m curious as to what other non-Indians would change to get that delicious Saag Paneer taste
I recently learned that there was such a thing as Kale chips (chips made from green Kale), and that they are extremely delicious, and extremely easy to make. So for those of you who like the idea of the eating healthy but find it hard to put in the time, effort and money to do so, this is really a perfect snack.
The greatest thing about Kale chips, besides the delicious taste and delicate crunchy texture, is the price. For $2 or $3 you can get a large bunch of Kale that will be good for two or three trays of chips, which equals about three small cereal bowls or one large mixing bowl. And the other ingredients you’ll need are things that you’ll most likely already have in your house.
- 1 bunch green Kale, leaves only (toss stems)
- About 2 tbsp olive oil, for drizzling
- Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
- Sugar, for sprinkling
- Salt, to taste
- Optional: garlic powder, to taste
- Optional: black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 or 375.
Note: A number of recipes call for oven temperatures ranging from 250 to 375 degrees F. Given that, I don’t think it really matters what the oven temperature is, but I’ve tested the 350 and 375 range and find it works pretty well.
2. Cut the leaves off the kale and discard the stems; rip large pieces of leaf into bite-size portions.
3. Next, wash the kale pieces under cold running water. If you have a salad spinner (those things that you dry lettuce with), then definitely use this–it makes the leaf drying process 10x faster. If not, then you’ll need to use a strainer and thoroughly towel-dry the leafs so there is as close to no water droplets as possible.
4. Spread the Kale evenly on a large cookie sheet or large pizza pan (the ones without the holes). Drizzle about 2 tbsp of olive oil over the kale leaves. Then sprinkle on salt, sugar, and Parmesan cheese to your liking (along with the black pepper and garlic, if desired). With a spoon or your hands, gently ‘fold’ the kale around to mix the ingredients a bit.
Note: You can also toss all the ingredients together in a bowl first before laying it out on the pan; though I’m lazy and have avoided doing this only because it’d mean I’d have to wash an extra dish, I suspect this would be the best way to make sure the leaves are evenly coated.
5. Bake in the preheat oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges of the leaves begin to brown (some brown is okay, but be careful not to burn!). Let chips cools for 5 minutes or so and enjoy!
Yes, it’s really that simple… cut, wash, sprinkle, bake (despite the fact it just took me 289 words to explain it).
I admit, since I last wrote, life has been busy and my progress on the Duck Challenge has slowed. But I assure you that my time has been put to good use… mainly, in the kitchen.
If you’re vegan or a real vegetarian (meaning, you don’t eat critters from the sea), you can stop reading now because I’m going to relay what I think is a worthwhile recipe for Seafood Chowder. For meat-eaters and terrible vegetarians (like myself), this is a must-try!
(Image from tasteofhome.com)
This all began Friday, when I got it in my head that I needed to make seafood chowder. For those who don’t know me very well, I’m a picky eater whose diet is, for the most part, dictated by cravings—savory, salty, sweet, creamy… the list goes on. Unfortunately, this isn’t helped by the fact that I work down the street from a Whole Foods, which I pass everyday to and from my office. So it was painfully easy for me to make a grossly expensive pit stop on the way home from work to pick up an array of overpriced seafood, as recommended by the highly-rated recipe I found on AllRecipes.com. While shopping, I made my own tweaks to the ingredient list based on user reviews and my own taste, and ended up with this:
(By the way, these ingredients were enough to feed 4-6 as a 1-course meal)
- ½ lb. Cod (skin removed and cut in 1” chunks or strips)
- ½ lb. Haddock (skin removed and cut in 1” chunks or strips)
- 1 lb. uncooked, shelled shrimp (peeled and cleaned)
- 1 can smoked oysters and/or
- 1 can smoked mussels
- Imitation Crab Meat (chunks, not sticks)
- 1 can corn (16 oz)
- 5 cups potatoes, diced
- 1 med or large onion, chopped
- ¼-1/3 cup chopped parsley
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups whole milk
- ½ can of evaporated milk
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 4 tbsp. butter
- Sea Salt, to taste
- Fresh black pepper, to taste
- ½ tbsp. onion powder
- ½ tbsp. garlic powder
- ½ tbsp. curry powder
- Olive oil
You’ll need a large pot or a Dutch oven, which is what I used. Just to make life easier, I recommend prepping the onion, potatoes, shrimp, and parsley ahead of time—peeling and cleaning shelled shrimp can take fooooorever.
Smoked oysters and mussels were ingredients I added based on user reviews—the original recipe called for bacon. Being a vegetarian, I couldn’t use bacon, but found that the smoked flavor of the oysters and mussels gave the chowder a nice flavor that resembled a smoked bacon. So, if you like smoked foods, this is a great replacement.
1. Coat the bottom of the pot or Dutch oven with olive oil and heat on a lower setting. Once heated, sauté the onions until they are tender. Next, add the potatoes and sauté a couple minutes before adding 2 cups of water. Raise heat, and let water boil gently until potatoes begin to soften (10+ minutes), stirring occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, prepare your fish—peel off skin and cut into 1” chunks or strips.
While cutting your fish, keep your pieces thin. The pieces will flake and break apart in your chowder, which will give the ‘broth’ a good texture. My reason for recommending this over using thicker chunks that won’t break apart is as follows: there are certain worms found specifically in Cod and Haddock—the most common ones are called Cod Worms. They are small and a white or pinkish color, very similar to the color of the fish. Even when you buy at the “top-notch” markets, like Whole Foods, there is still a considerable chance that your fillet will contain worms. I recommend cutting the fish in thinner chunks, or strips, so that you have a higher chance of spotting worms. It is true that if worms go overlooked and end up in your soup, the heat will kill them and most times they will be completely harmless. However, there is a small chance that eggs may latch onto your intestinal lining as the foods passes through… in which case, you will have problems.
I bought my Cod at Whole Foods and spent about $8 on ½ a pound. After finding a live Cod worm in one chunk and a dead one in another, my $8 went into a heavy-duty Ziplock bag and right into the trash. I proceeded to have a panic attack, and almost destroyed my chunks of Haddock as I searched for other worms. Conveniently, I live with a photographer who has powerful lights on hand, and after reading on the internet that worms can be spotted when held to up a powerful light, I inspected each piece meticulously. Luckily, no worms, though it did take me about 15 minutes to pull myself together… it’s really not fun to find parasites in the food you almost ate—makes you think twice.
So, it should be noted that my chowder was missing the ½ pound of Cod I listed in the ingredients.
3. Once potatoes begin to soften, add all your fish—Cod, Haddock, shrimp, smoked oysters, smoked mussels, and imitation crab. Also add corn, parsley, and butter (cut into little chunks and distribute evenly across the mix). Fold mixture a couple times to mix everything well, and once the butter has melted, add the additional 2 cups of water. Also add spices. Bring to a gentle boil.
4. Meanwhile, dissolve 2 tbsp of flour in 4 cups of whole milk—add to the chowder with a ½ can of evaporated milk, and make sure to stir often so everything heats evenly. Once the milk begins to ‘breath’ (or looks like it’s trying to bubble), give it a taste to see if you need any more spices. Otherwise, your chowder is ready—Bon appetit!
If anyone has any tweaks, suggestions, or reviews, be sure to leave a comment! Like any recipe, this is just to get you started. ☺