Monday, March 2, 2009

Keralan Spinach in Yogurt

Where have we been?

Oh, you know, cooking school in the most gorgeous part of India, Kerala.

It was the best vacation we've ever taken, hands-down. (No offense to Phoebe's mom, who offers up awesome accommodations every time, but you can't get a young coconut with a straw in it on every corner in Western Massachusetts). We came home with a deepened appreciation for South Indian food (very different from what you get in most Indian restaurants in the US) and over 30 recipes, which we plan to convert from the metric system, bastardize with kale, and blog.

For our first Haritha Farms recipe, we offer this interesting take on spinach--rather than eating it raw or flash-sauteing it, you'll cook it down with South Indian seasonings until it starts to caramelize on the pan and then mix it with plain yogurt. It's an excellent accompaniment to rice and curries, and an unexpected way to get your greens in.

Ingredient notes: urad dal is used raw, like a spice, in Keralan cooking. If you can't find it in your local Indian grocery store (AKA you don't have a local Indian grocery store), it's OK to leave it out. The yogurt in India was much waterier than our favorite yogurt, so we diluted it with a little water. If you have homemade yogurt, or your yogurt is on the watery side, skip the extra water.

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 teaspoons urad dal (optional)
2 large shallots, sliced (about 1 cup)
1 green chile, sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, finely minced or ground
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced or put through a press
6 cups (1/2 pound) chopped fresh spinach
1 and 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup water, if needed (see headnote)

Heat a wok over medium-high heat and melt the coconut oil. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds and urad dal and fry (without stirring) until the mustard seeds are almost fully popped and the dal is golden brown. Add shallots and stir until browned, then add chili, ginger and garlic and stir until the garlic is browned and the raw smell is gone.

Add the chopped spinach and cook over high heat, continually stirring, for about 20 minutes. Be persistent! The spinach will reduce more than you could ever imagine and release sugars that will stick to the pan. When you're certain that the spinach can't reduce any more, remove it from the heat. Once it's cooled to room temperature, stir in the yogurt and water and serve.


Daniel said...

Welcome back! I cannot WAIT to see these new recipes that you claim you're going to bastardize. I think it's a lot more likely you'll improve them--substantially!

Everything's better with Kale.

Casual Kitchen

Eliza said...

Sorry this comment isnt about the Keralan spinach, but about kale in general... you simply must have a recipe for Kale Chips! Toss kale with oil to coat, spread on a baking sheet, sprinkle with anything (parmesan cheese, salt, cayenne, etc). Bake at 400 till crisp and crumbly, checking every minute after 8 mins. Super addictive with parm!

Ingrid said...

I can imagine you experience an awesome trip. Southern India, wow! I've always loved Indian food and the use of those incredible spices. Though I'm sure the recipes you will share won't be raw, still I'm looking forward to seeing what you will share. Oh and welcome back!

I Heart Kale said...

Dan and Ingrid, thanks for stopping by and welcoming us back! I hope everyone in blog-land is ready for non-stop Indian food, because that's all we're eating lately.

Eliza, we adore kale chips! We need to get around to posting our recipe--we do them with maple syrup and cayenne. Thanks for the recipe!

Indian Food Lover said...

You know, I've always preferred Pavel's Yoghurt for making this and other raitas/ chutneys. Pavels is just runny enough but not too runny,and comes closest to the taste and flavor of Indian, home-made Yoghurt.

I Heart Kale said...

Yeah, we got some Pavel's yogurt at Vik's and it was much closer to the consistency we were looking for. Too bad it's not organic!

I Heart Kale said...

Public service announcement: Pavel's is now making organic low-fat yogurt, spotted at both Berkeley Bowl and the Whole Foods in Lake Merritt. Still no sign of full-fat organic Pavel's yogurt, and still not available at Vik's.

Faith said...

I made this yesterday for a German crowd and it was a success! I didn't have the right dal, so left it out, but I bulked up the greens by adding stinging nettle and dandelion greens- Thanks for the great blog and recipies!

I Heart Kale said...

Glad it worked out, Faith, and thanks for stopping by! It's especially good to hear that the dal is optional, since it may be hard to find if you don't have an Indian grocery store nearby. We'll keep that in mind from now on when blogging Indian recipes! Also, we'll have to try this with nettles...mmm, calcium.

Faith said...

I just wanted to say that I made this recipe again, after I found Urad Dal and curry rocked! But I think it was also very good without these two ingredients- the trick to this recipe is cooking down the spinach. That adds a whole different dimension! Can't wait to make the Egg Masala next! Thanks for a great blog!

I Heart Kale said...

That's great that you found curry leaves and urad dal--there's just something really special about the flavor of both. We haven't been able to get curry leaves for weeks and are really feeling the loss! Enjoy the egg masala, we just made some last week!