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!)
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
- 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).
- 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.
- Add the spinach and continue cooking until it’s wilted (which will take far less time than you’d think). Remove from heat.
- 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.
- Turn heat to low; add chickpeas and yogurt, and let it simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavors.
- 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).
- Add the peppers to the pot with the chickpeas and spinach mix; turn off the heat and stir to combine.
- Serve with an extra dollop of yogurt on the top, and some nice naan or chappati (should you have such a delight on hand)!
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