September 17th, 2011

{recipe} Winning! Quick Indian-Style Spinach and Chickpeas

Indian Spinach Chickpeas

This dish is inspired by one of my favorite Indian dishes, Chole Saag. Or, wait, Saag Chole. I believe the former is primarily chickpeas (chole) with some spinach (saag) mixed in, while the latter is a dish of primarily spinach with some chickpeas mixed in. My dish is definitely about the spinach, no question about it, because—move over, Popeye—I’m a mom on a mission.

I rarely plan meals around what I think my kids “need.” Obsessing over the many ways we can meet our children’s every need in real time is the worst part of popular parenting culture. I’d like to think that being thoughtful, loving and doing our best balance our children’s needs with our own is a good (or good enough?) approach. When it comes to food, that means making healthy food that I like to eat while making sure that my kids have access to a wide variety of healthy foods three meals and two snacks a day. But, lately, I’ve tired of seeing every green vegetable other than broccoli go to waste. And does broccoli even count as green when it’s lacquered in crimson ketchup? Yuck.

So, I admit it, this meal was the first in a while inspired by concern a desire to remind the kids that green veggies can be delicious. And maybe I also wanted to win one. The Hungry Boys were getting way too comfortable skipping their veg and agreeing that dinner could be over, even without dessert.

I was clear from the get-go that I’d start this mission with spinach. I figure that’s a good, practical green veggie for them to like, one they’ll see lots of both at home and away from home. I pondered their (latest) reasons for rejecting spinach: to leafy, too stringy (if cut up), too green. I’d tackle texture by whipping out the blender and, as for color, well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Since there’s no way to turn spinach any other color, I’d go with the color hardcore. Oh, I’d show them green. That’s right, a deep green puree—that’s what we’d eat.

I panicked for a moment: I didn’t want to eat spinach baby food for dinner. How annoying! Creamed spinach? Ugh, too creamy and buttery. (It was a rough August, if you call eating a lot of pie “rough.” I’m reigning it in.) That’s when I thought of saag paneer, a favorite Indian spinach dish with soft cheese. I didn’t have the right cheese, but I could do even better, nutritionally speaking, with chickpeas. Saag chole. I had it!

What I didn’t have, though, was clarified butter or a whole lot of time to look into a traditional preparation. Instead, I winged it with wonderful results. I don’t often post recipes without testing them more than once, but this was such a great, easy preparation, I just had to. Well, that and I wanted to gloat, because guess what:

I WON!

They ate the spinach (and the chickpeas). Two nights in a row, thank you very much. I served it on top of plain rice alongside this Moroccan Shrimp with Yogurt (which the Hungry Boys also loved; it worked great with the Indian flavors of my spinach) from Jenny’s Top 10 Quick Dinners list at Dinner: A Love Story.

Honestly, all together, it was a perfect meal and it came together in all of 20 minutes. Try it if you’re looking for a win, too.

Quick Indian-Style Spinach and Chickpeas
serves 4-6
(can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*

2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, defrosted
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon salted butter
1/2-3/4 teaspoons minced (or grated) fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine spinach (don’t include any water that’s drained out of the spinach, but you don’t need to squeeze the spinach either) and your preferred broth in a powerful blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Set spinach puree aside.

2. Heat butter in a medium pan over medium-low heat. As soon as it melts, add the ginger (1/2 teaspoon for a more mild ginger flavor; I use 3/4 teaspoon for a stronger flavor) and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garam masala, cumin, coriander and curry powder. Toast the spices for 3-4 minutes, until they are fragrant and take on a deep color. If the garlic begins to brown or the spices darken quickly, lower your heat. This is a gentle process to ensure that your ground spices release their oils and keep from imparting a powdery flavor. (This dish will taste significantly better when made with fresh spices.)

3. Add spinach puree to the pan, along with the lemon juice. Cook for about a minute, to bring the flavors together, then add the chickpeas. Continue cooking until the chickpeas are heated through and all of the watery liquid cooks down leaving a puree (with a consistency like baby food). Add more broth if you end up needing to make adjustments to the consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Suggestion: serve with rice.

*Note: Be sure to mash or puree the chickpeas into the spinach for babies not yet managing larger chunks.

14 Responses

  1. This recipe looks so fabulous–right up my alley! I’d probably serve it with the garlic naan they sell frozen at Trader Joe’s.

  2. Miri Leigh says:

    This looks delicious! I’ll definitely be trying this out in the near future :)

  3. Kelly Senyei says:

    I absolutely love making my go-to takeout dishes from scratch, and this looks right up my alley! I can’t wait to try it this weekend!

  4. Cecilia says:

    Just got around to trying this (Indian-Style Spinach and Chickpeas) tonight and it was shockingly delicious, and it came together oh so quickly. My husband loved it too. Sadly, my 3 year old would not taste it – he does not taste anything that looks like it could be vegetable-related. But I loved it and will definitely be making it again. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  5. Annie says:

    This tastes wonderful AND it’s easy…i just made it one-handed while putting my two month old to sleep. Thanks, this one’s a keeper :)

  6. Annie – so glad this worked out so well for you. Now that the Hungry Baby is 2 (already!) I’ve forgotten how important one-handed recipes are! lol. Someone should write a book of them for those crazy 5 or so months when we can’t put the little ones down as much.

  7. Vanessa says:

    This was great! I didn’t have curry powder and added crushed red pepper flakes for heat, and mushrooms. Served with mini pitas and rice. Garam masala is key!

  8. One Hungry Mama says:

    So glad you liked it. It’s a great recipe, right?! One of our favorites.

  9. Jay says:

    Damn, was really looking forward to this. But unfortunately the food processor/mixer my roommate has wasn’t strong enough to handle the spinach and ended up getting stuck. So now I have to cook it with stringy spinach that ties itself up into knots. Not happy :(

  10. Jay says:

    Okay, but it was still really good :) Love the taste.

  11. Ha! Thanks for the follow up, Jay (phew!). Sorry to hear that the food processor you used wasn’t strong enough to handle the spinach. A bummer… but a good note for others. It’ll probably be an issue for anyone who has an old or not very powerful machine. Did you add water or broth? Sometimes liquid helps. (If you try it, though, remember that a lot of added liquid can water down the flavor, especially if you use water. You may have to adjust the seasoning accordingly.)

  12. brandi says:

    I just made this tonight, and it was really good! I skipped the puree step because the frozen spinach was already chopped and that worked fine for us. (I’m too tired to contemplate washing the blender.) I used canola oil because I used ghee to brown some potatoes to go with these, and I was trying to avoid too much saturated fat. I won’t skip it next time, though, because a little unctuousness would make this recipe perfect. Oh, and my house smelled amazing! Thanks!

  13. Emma says:

    Thanks for your recipe! I can’t believe how easy it was! Tastes amazing with a dollop of Greek yoghurt on it, too.
    Like another person said, my house now smells amazing :)

  14. @emma – so glad that you enjoyed this!

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