Easy eating green: Chana Saag

I joke about it, but it’s absolutely true: I am a difficult little bird to schedule. I try not to complain about it too much because it is, without question, my own damn fault; however, it is at times incredibly inconvenient, particularly when it starts to interfere with my ability to get into some quality mischief. Example: earlier this year, I was contacted by some lovely folks at the Institute of Culinary Education, who asked if I would be interested in attending and writing about one of their classes at some point this summer. Rating low on the idiocy scale (usually), I jumped at the chance! After much hemming and hawing, I signed up for a class in dumplings and sat back to rub my hands with glee.

And then my schedule exploded, as it so often does in mid-June, and I was forced to cancel. Gutted.


Now, if I were the ICE, I would have dropped my complicated self by the side of the road right there. But, mercifully, they are far more patient than I and gave me an opportunity to reschedule. Which is how I found myself stoically braving a Sunday monsoon to attend a class in Indian cookery.

I’d never actually attended a cooking class before, so walking through the door I was hit with a double whammy of performance anxiety–were my skills sufficient to avoid humiliating myself, and would I actually be able to cook something delicious without blowing up the kitchen? Mercifully, the answer to both was yes. The class catered to all different skill levels, and gave a good enough grounding in the basics that I went home feeling moderately confident about riffing on some of the dishes–which is how I ended up making chana saag last Tuesday night.


The biggest surprise about the chana saag was how EASY it was–if you have a food processor, it will take somewhere in the vicinity of 30-40 minutes (most of that being onion caramelizing duty). I’d been laboring under the delusion that all Indian food requires at least a zillion years to do up in a tasty fashion; turns out, I was wrong, which is really the best thing I got out of the class: the realization that I can no longer blame my insane-o-bot schedule for eating badly. Which may or may not turn out to be a double edged sword; I’ll let you know once I’ve managed to find two seconds to think about it.

(You can read more about my adventures at the ICE over at their blog, DICED!)

Chana Saag

2×12 oz packages baby spinach
2×15 oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 c onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp finely grated ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 c water or stock
1/2 c plain yogurt
1 bell pepper, seeds and membranes removed, sliced

salt, pepper, oil

  1. Heat some oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet or dutch oven. Add the onions and saute until they are brown, soft, and just this side of caramelized (about 15 minutes).
  2. Add the ginger, turmeric, coriander, and garam masala. Season with some salt and pepper while you’re at it. Saute for 2-3 more minutes.
  3. Add the spinach and continue cooking until it’s wilted (which will take far less time than you’d think). Remove from heat.
  4. Put the spinach-onion mixture into your food processor and whizz it around, slowly adding the water or stock, until it is the consistency you want it. It should be more sauce-like than paste-like. Put it back into the pot on the stove.
  5. Turn heat to low; add chickpeas and yogurt, and let it simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavors.
  6. While it’s simmering, saute the red peppers very quickly over high heat (slightly blackened skin and a little bite is what you’re going for).
  7. Add the peppers to the pot with the chickpeas and spinach mix; turn off the heat and stir to combine.
  8. Serve with an extra dollop of yogurt on the top, and some nice naan or chappati (should you have such a delight on hand)!
In chana saag, chickpeas, indian

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