Ever since my mom gave me my masala dubba, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Suvir Saran‘s Indian Home Cooking. It’s amazing how a small round tin of spices can open up an entire cuisine for exploration. I think I’m a little obsessed with making Indian food now that I can; I feel empowered, no longer unhappily yoked to Punjabi take out, even if it is from Kinara. Saran’s is the only Indian cookbook I have, and so far, it’s served me quite well. (Does anyone have his new book, American Masala? Thoughts?) So, I think it’s safe to predict an onslaught of Indian recipes featured on this blog in the coming month.
Yesterday I was at Whole Foods browsing the vegetable aisle, caressing a cauliflower. I know that sounds weird. I’m usually poking cheeses, assessing their textures, not running my hand over a bumpy cauliflower head. But now that I’ve got my dubba, I can make all those shaaks I grew up eating. Funny, in middle school and high school, I hated eating Indian food five nights out of the week, but now I crave the nutritional balance it so tastily provides.
So, on Monday we made Paalak Wallae Aloo, or Spinach with Potatoes, in which spiced potatoes become satisfyingly soft underneath a blanket of lush, savory spinach that’s highlighted with onion, cumin and garlic. It was both delicious and nutritious! I folded pieces of fresh, hot pita from Olive and Vine over the shaak just as I would do at home with a roti and felt that finally I had reached some wonderful accomplishment of Indian yumminess.
Saran’s recipe doesn’t call for boiling the potatoes before cooking them, and the time it took for our potatoes to break down into the easily mashable consistency we desired took longer than his allotted cooking time. I’ve noted the adjustment below. We also substituted frozen spinach for fresh since we wanted a dish that was creamier in texture.
Spinach with Potatoes (Paalak Wallae Aloo)
adapted from Indian Home Cooking
2 10-oz. packets frozen chopped spinach
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
3 whole dried red chiles
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 fresh hot green chile, minced (we forgot our green chile which was just as well since Lisa was over for dinner and has trouble eating spicy food. However, I love heat so I added 1/8 tsp. of pungent red chile powder for the slightest of kicks.)
1 pound red boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-to 3/4-inch cubes.
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. ground coriander
1. tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. garam masala
Microwave the frozen spinach until it just thaws. Set aside.
Combine the oil, cumin, fennel seeds, bay leaves, and chiles in a pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the cumin darkens slightly, 1-2 minuts.
Add the onion and green chile (or not) and cook, stirring, about 30 seconds. Add the potatoes and garlic, and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the potatoes are translucent around the edges, about 5 minutes.
Add the coriander, cumin, and ginger, and stir well to coat the potatoes with the oil and spices. Cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to keep the spices from sticking. Add the thawed spinach and the salt, stir well, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 more minutes.
Stir in the garam masala and cook 1 minute. Taste for salt and serve hot.