Saag Chole & Nina

Music: Nina Simone, Anthology
Menu: Saag Chole, yogurt, tortillas (I had some that needed eating, but splurge on naan or chapati if you can!)

I’m baaaaaaaaaaack!!!!  I’ve have been MIA, I know.  I have no good excuse, really.  So, I’ll just leave it at that.

One of our recent culinary goals is to start cooking more Indian.  We LOVE Indian food.  And I have gotten the hang of making beginner style Indian meals.  In other words, I can make a mean curry, I have a basic stocked pantry, and an understanding of the flavors.  I have now entered phase two.  Phase two means advancing my pantry with whole spices, attempting ghee, and attempting to make homemade naan!  So, here is the first step to the addition of some yummy cumin seeds in this beautiful Saag Chole!

 
As you can see I have a bottle of cumin seeds.  I need to get whole coriander seeds, but the cumin seeds have made a HUGE difference already in flavor compared to using ground cumin!
 
This dish was quick, easy, and full of flavor and nutrition.   I used two packs of frozen spinach and two cans of chickpeas, too!  Next time I make it I will make a few changes…the first being coconut milk.  After I got everything in the pot, I added about 1/2 cup of water, I suggest replacing that with lite coconut milk.  The dish is pretty rich as is, so lite would be just fine.  I remember having Saag Chole at my fave Indian restaurant here in Denver and the dish being creamy and almost the consistency of a dip.  So, I did a bit of mashing towards the end to try to get this consistency, but I think coconut milk would go a long way.

A little bit about the music choice…in addition to loving Indian food, we also dig Nina Simone in a big way.  If you haven’t listened to her, do it.  Seriously, do it.   Now.   She’s known as a jazz standards singer, but she goes far, far, far beyond that (see Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter).  Her take on the standards are different (Feeling Good); her deep, melodic voice gives these songs an emotive quality unattainable by other singers (Black is the Color).  Beyond the familiar, the “High Priestess of Soul” was also an accomplished pianist, composer, and civil rights activist – a truly musical chameleon who embraced all styles and never shied from expressing her womanhood (I Put a Spell on You),  her beliefs (Let it All Out), and the undeniably passionate and soulful instrument which was her voice.

The Anthology album is a great compilation of both standards and originals and a perfect way to dip your toes into the wonderful world of Ms. Simone.  The only song that is missing, which I highly suggest you check out, is Baltimore.

Our wonderful friend Jillian is letting us hold her beautiful orchid hostage for a while and couldn’t resist this photo showing it off 🙂

Saag Chole

Ingredients:

  • 1 large (or 2 medium/small) baking potato
  • EVOO or vegetable oil or ghee!
  • 1/2 tspn. (heaping) of cumin seeds
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 1 small serrano chile
  • 5 – 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tspn. coriander, tumeric, cinnamon, garam masala
  • 1/4 tspn. cayenne pepper
  • S & P
  • 2 (10 ounce) packages of frozen spinach
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Cilantro, optional

Directions:

  1. Cut potato into small pieces resembling size of chickpeas.  Boil potatoes until almost tender.  Turn heat off and let stand in water for 5 minutes, drain.  
  2. Heat oil/ghee in large skillet.  Add cumin seeds and toast until fragrant and beginning to pop over medium-high heat.  
  3. While cumin seeds toast, place ginger, chile, and garlic in a small food processor and blend until a paste is formed.  Alternatively, you can mince these ingredients.  Add to skillet with cumin and saute for a minute until fragrant.
  4. Add onions.  Saute until deeply browned.  The browner, the more flavor!  Don’t let them burn, but a nice deep brown will intensify the flavor and allow for a deep color for the dish.  Stir frequently.  
  5. Add tomatoes and stir to incorporate. 
  6. Add all spices and stir to evenly distribute.  
  7. Add spinach and then chickpeas.  Drizzle with lemon juice.  Stir.
  8. Let simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes allowing the flavors to combine and stirring every few minutes.  
  9. Adjust seasonings as needed!  I needed a bit more lemon, cayenne and garam masala.
  10. Add some chopped cilantro, turn off heat.
  11. Serve with additional cilantro, yogurt, and a slice of lemon/lime.  Enjoy 🙂
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