Author Notes: Once you have your garlic-ginger-chile paste prepped (and, hint, you don't have to use a blender or food processor—you could chop them very finely, then mash with water in a mortar and pestle, or even just stir the water and minced vegetables together), all you need to do is wilt spinach, dump in a couple cans of chickpeas, add a few tablespoons of cream, temper spices in hot oil, and you're done.
It's incredibly flavorful without asking that you rummage through the spice cabinet; it needn't be accompanied by a posse of starches or proteins to become a balanced dinner (though rice, or bread, or a swoosh of cucumber-flecked yogurt across the plate would be welcome); it's easily turned vegan (sub coconut milk for heavy cream, then top with toasted coconut flakes); and you can use frozen spinach instead of fresh. If you want to use frozen spinach instead of fresh, cook 2 packages of spinach according to the packaging directions, drain well, and proceed with the recipe.
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's saag paneer in World of the East Vegetarian Cooking.
Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 40 min
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
cloves garlic, peeled
serrano or other hot green chile, roughly chopped
cup canola oil plus 1 tablespoon, divided
pounds fresh spinach (or two 9-ounce packages frozen spinach, cooked according to the package and drained)
dash Kosher salt
15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
tablespoons cream, divided
teaspoon garam masala
teaspoon cumin seeds
- In a food processor, blender, or mortar and pestle, combine the ginger, garlic, and chile pepper with 1/4 cup of water so that you have a paste.
- Heat 1/4 cup canola oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. When it's hot, add the garlic-ginger-chile paste and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds, until the mixture is very fragrant. Add the spinach (it's okay to work in batches) and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- Stir the spinach around for 1 minute to make sure all pieces are coated in oil, then cover the pan for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If all the water evaporates, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water and continue cooking.
- Add the chickpeas, another 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and stir until the chickpeas are mixed into the spinach. Add 3 tablespoons of cream, stir to combine, then cover and cook for another 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the time is almost up, heat the last tablespoon of canola oil in a small pan on a separate burner. When the oil is hot, add the garam masala, cayenne, and cumin seeds. Fry, stirring, until the spices are fragrant and toasted.
- Immediately pour the spiced oil into the spinach-chickpea mixture. Add the last tablespoon of cream, stir everything to combine. Eat hot or at room temperature.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!