Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Improvising Indian: Chickpeas and Greens Simmered in Yogurt

Hi readers, we've moved!
Read this post, and new ones, at the new Pithy and Cleaver! Thanks for updating your book marks. We hope you like the new design.

I would love to invite a group of friends to my apartment for an Indian feast. I'd to try the tandoori chicken from a recent Cook's Illustrated (recipe here on The Bitten Word), charred under the broiler with a coating of garam masala, ginger, and chili powder. Perhaps I'd even make an attempt at naan with onion or garlic and a mango salsa. For dessert, an assortment of tropical sorbets, or maybe a coconut tapioca?

But when I saw a recipe for
spinach simmered in yogurt with turmeric and coriander in last month's Food and Wine, I didn't want to wait for a big party. Perhaps it's end-of-winter braised-meat fatigue, or a vitamin deficiency as the cold weather drags on, but a bowl of greens is an appealing supper all on its own to me. Especially after trudging home through the slushy puddles overflowing every gutter in the city.

The very first mesclun leaves are appearing at the Union Square farmer's market, but I needed piles, since greens cook down to nothing. Don't underestimate—you probably need a bunch of greens per person if you're serving this as a main course. And if even if not, since it's delicious. I picked out spinach and nice-looking mustard greens at Whole Foods. To make it a bit more substantial, I added two cans of chickpeas for a tangy spin on chana saag. (I increased and varied the spices too after a taste—chickpeas take quite a bit of spice.)

I would not use frozen spinach for this, even if someone else gives you permission. Since the dish only simmers for a few minutes, fresh greens elevate it above takeout Indian. The mustard greens are pleasantly potent, and the spinach stays sweet and fresh. You could probably make this ahead, as well, cooking the spices and chickpeas and wilting the greens, then just combining it all with the yogurt to warm through when your guests arrive.

Chickpeas and Greens Simmered in Yogurt

Serves 2-3 as a main course
Inspired by Food and Wine, February 2009

2 bunches spinach, rinsed carefully
1 large bunch mustard greens
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, minced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt

Carefully wash spinach and mustard greens and place in a large pot. The water clinging to the leaves will help steam the greens. Cook, covered, over moderate heat until barely wilted, stirring occasionally. Transfer to colander. Press excess water out of greens and set aside to cool. Coarsely chop.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a dutch oven, add the onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic and chile flakes and cook until fragrant. Add coriander, turmeric, garam masala, curry powder, and ginger, and toast one minute, stirring. Add the chickpeas and tomato paste, tossing to coat. Add 1/2 cup water to deglaze, and cook until evaporated. Add another 1/2 cup water, and cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. When garbanzos are tender, lower the heat and add chopped greens and yogurt to the pot, stirring, five minutes, until the yogurt begins to separate. Season generously with salt and serve with rice.


Phoo-D said...

We must be on the same wavelength Maggie! Tandoori chicken was on our menu this week. I love the chickpea dish ingredients - now I just need to track down mustard greens. Do you think arugula would be a good stand in?

Lisa said...

Yum, I must try this!

You should still do the Indian feast, though. It's really fun.

maggie said...

They had mustard greens at Whole Foods when I went, but if you can't find them, I'm not sure I'd go with arugula, which can be a little bitter when cooked. If you try it, let me know! You could also do all-spinach and I think it would still be delicious!

The Food Librarian said...

MMmmmm. So yummy. It looks perfectly warm, healthy and inviting.

Heather said...

mmmm. that sounds delicious! i need to get some more garam masala. i only bought a very small sample size before, and am already all out of it.

AnticiPlate said...

I am actually hosting my monthly dinner club in April with guess what: Indian Food. This looks excellent. Food and Wine's spread is what inspired me!!!!! I am going to have to try this in the interim.

I am going to try to make Naan. That could be interesting:)

maggie said...

I'd definitely consider adding the spices I've noted—I tasted what the original recipe called for and it was quite bland, I thought.

catherine @ said...

Love Indian food, and this looks so amazingly good with just about anything. I see Trader Joe's has frozen naan. I'm going to try it all. Thank you!

nithya at hungrydesi said...

This looks delicious...I made something similar, palak channa, a few weeks back but pureed the spinach instead of whole leaves. I couldn't find mustard greens so I used fresh spinach and mustard oil for cooking (which gives that same slightly bitter taste and aroma). And I agree wholeheartedly with your advice - I tried frozen spinach once and it was a disaster!

Chef Fresco said...

I've never simmered anything in yogurt & have never used mustard greens - This looks delicious! (and cheesy - even though I know it's not :)

Cate said...

this is JUST my kind of recipe. simple, different, fresh and filling. i'm absolutely cooking it this weekend, esp. since we're having veg friends over for dinner. thanks for posting!

Joanna said...

Haha wow, like everyone else here, this is so timely! I made an Indian dish from scratch for the first time two nights ago - cabbage and lentils from Smitten Kitchen - and it was so good and so not scary like I thought it would be... I'll have to try this type of thing more often.

Also, as someone who tends to fail at any recipe involving flour, these were easy and fun and delicious:
I'd definitely recommend them!

maggie said...

Those parathas look great!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

That is an awesome combination! I love it!

whitney said...

Hi Maggie...I'm a friend of a friend (Hahhah) out here in San Francisco who's been lurking on your blog for a few weeks now. And this one makes me want to comment. Your recipe looks great and it reminds me of this strange yet delicious thing my boyfriend does with yogurt and eggs...he whisks them together, sprinkles dried mint on top, and then cooks them with a lid on so it all puffs up (you can crack whole eggs in the middle if you want more egg:). I've been loving your site! Thanks!

maggie said...

Hey Whitney, glad you're enjoying it! (Any friend of Hannah's is a friend of mine!)

ms.gourmet said...

Pure comfort food!

Lo said...

This will definitely make my repertoire. I'm a total fool for saag paneer and the like. LOVE the mustard greens with this flavor combo.

Lo said...

Made this for dinner last night -- and am eating the leftovers right now for lunch. serious YUM.

Adi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.