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.