Thursday, March 21, 2013

Indian-Style Spinach with Raw Peanuts & Raisins

Most people who enjoy Indian food are familiar with palak paneer, aka saag paneer, a popular feature in most Indian restaurants in the U.S. For those not familiar with it, palak or saag paneer is most commonly made in the US with spinach and paneer cheese. In India, however, it is made with whatever greens are available or in season, which could be spinach, mustard greens, fenugreek greens, beet greens, collards, and even a combination of several.

Like palak paneer, the following Indian spinach dish is vegetarian -- but unlike the former, you can make the following recipe vegan by using vegetable oil instead of ghee (Indian clarified butter).

Raw peanuts can be found at natural food stores like Whole Foods and at Asian and Indian markets, and you cannot substitute regular roasted or fried peanuts because the flavor and texture is dramatically different. It will save you time if you can find shelled raw peanuts that have been skinned; otherwise, for best flavor you should remove the red skins after soaking the peanuts (they rub off rather easily but it takes time to get them all).

The original version of this Bengali recipe appears in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East, Vegetarian Cooking cookbook.  Here is how I make it, using raisins or currants instead of coconut:

1 cup raw, shelled peanuts
2 cups water
2 Tbs ghee
1/8 tsp whole fenugreek seeds
1 12-oz bag of frozen spinach
1 Tbs blackstrap molasses
1 hot green chili pepper, e.g., jalapeno or serrano, seeded & minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup currants or raisins

Soak the peanuts in a large bowl with 2 cups water for 3 to 4 hours -- the peanuts will plump up during soaking so make sure there's enough room in the bowl. Drain the peanuts and remove skins if using unskinned peanuts.

Melt ghee over medium heat in a large, deep skillet.  When hot, toss in the fenugreek seeds and cook for a few seconds, just until they sizzle and begin to darken -- do not overcook or they'll turn bitter! Add rest of ingredients (the spinach can still be frozen) and stir well to break up the spinach and combine everything. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until spinach is fully cooked, stirring once or twice and adding just a little bit of water if the dish looks too dry -- it should be moist but without excess liquid. If there's any liquid remaining when the spinach is cooked, simply bring heat back up to medium and cook, uncovered & stirring regularly, until the extra liquid has evaporated.  Serves 2 to 4.

Zestfully yours,

PS: If you're looking for more Indian recipes, be sure to follow our Indian Recipes board on Pinterest!  You can also search this blog for "Indian recipe" to find more.

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