July 24, 2012

make-ahead chana saag

Cooking on weeknights can be such an elusive thing.

Here's my typical weeknight come-home-from-work/make dinner scenario:

Leave work, think about what to make for dinner
On the subway, think about what to make for dinner
On the bus, go through a mental list of things we need to use in the fridge asap before it goes bad
Get home, still no idea what to make for dinner
Stand in the kitchen, decide to go pick up some pizza

That's why I love recipes that I can make in a big batch (like this flavourful and comforting chana saag), freeze in smaller portions and have on hand for days just like these.  Let it thaw overnight and presto! you've got dinner ready in jif.

Here's the recipe!

Chana Saag (Chickpea and Spinach)
adapted from Moderate Oven

3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (I didn't have the seeds so I just used ground here too)
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, finely grated
6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1-2 small hot green chiles (Serrano or jalapeno)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
4 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 10-oz boxes frozen spinach, NOT thawed
½ cup plain yogurt 
2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon of kosher salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon garam masala


In a large skillet with high sides, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the cumin, cloves and cardamom to the hot oil.  Cook and stir for just 1 minute, being careful not to burn it.  Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and green chiles to the skillet and cook, stirring often, for about five minutes or until the onions begin to brown around the edges.  Add the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and paprika and stir well to combine the spices with the onion mixture, then add the canned tomatoes.
Reduce the heat and simmer for about five minutes, stirring often.  Add the frozen spinach, stir the tomato mixture around and on top of it, then simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes.  Every five minutes or so, give the spinach a good stir to break up the bits that have thawed.   Once the spinach is fully thawed, cook another five minutes.
Remove the skillet from heat and add the yogurt.  If you have an immersion blender, use it to puree the spinach now, processing until smooth.  If you have to use a blender or food processor to puree, you will want to allow the spinach to cool a bit before proceeding.
Add the chickpeas and salt to the pureed spinach in the pot.  Simmer, partially covered, for ten more minutes.  Stir often and check that the mixture is not too dry; add a bit of water if necessary.  Sprinkle garam masala over the top and serve over rice.

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