Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fast And Easy, Spinach Does Double Duty!

   There are a few  things that I try never to be caught without in my larder: Dal, rice, certain basic fresh spices and root vegetables. A healthy nutritious  Indian meal can be whipped up quickly out of any combination of these. Then there is the freezer. My  new best friend.
   I'm one of those people who'd always dreamed of a Family Freezer. Something that I could keep in the garage and use to take advantage of seasonal sales. Finally after years of dithering around about it, I bit the bullet and bought one. I also bought a vacuum sealer so that I could insure that everything would stay fresh, and a number of glass, stacking, freezer containers for soups and dals that could be easily thawed, heated and served.
   What else is in my magical freezer? Fresh frozen grated coconut, frozen lotus root slices, frozen methei (fenugreek greens), curry leaves, kaffir lime leaves and an unending supply of organic frozen chopped spinach.
   Considering where I live, the exotics are easily explainable, the spinach not so much. I usually buy fresh organic spinach, but of all the things that I might store in the freezer, the thing I get the most use out of for in-a-pinch cooking are small boxes of frozen organic spinach. They are as unendingly useful to me as those small bags of chopped 99 cent cabbage I always keep on hand.
   They're always good for filling out a plate and are a great ingredient to be included in any number of Indian dishes. One of my favorite is one that I use to fill out a buffet, and that is Spinach Pachardi.
   Pachadis are South Indian dishes, they're sort of like raitas but not quite. They can be eaten as a relish with stuff like dosas or idili, or served on a buffet as a cold vegetable side dish. For years I've made a wonderful mango pachadi and plenty of vegetables besides spinach can be used. But when I looked at my Indian buffet a week or so ago I decided I needed one more thing to fill out the table, and spinach was of course what I had at the last minute.
   So a Spinach Pachadi was what I made. It was a spicy side dish that everyone loved, and best of all it was fast and easy. So if  you're caught needing just one more thing on the table at the very last minute and all you have is some frozen spinach...

Kerala Spinach Pachadi

...here's what to do:
  First of all, defrost 1 10z box of frozen chopped spinach.
 In a skillet or kadhai heat 3 Tbs of vegetable oil
 When the oil is hot toss in:
  2 tsp of cumin seeds
  2 tsp of urad dal
As the dal cooks, it'll turn a reddish color. As soon as that happens add in:
 15-20 curry leaves
 2 whole dried red chilies broken in half
 Stir that all around then toss in:
  2/3 cup of finely chopped shallots
  2 fresh green serrano chilies very thinly sliced
Saute these until the shallots turn a nice golden color then add in:
  2/3 cup of fresh grated coconut.
 Now it's time to add in the defrosted spinach. Drain it and press it to get rid of excess water then let 'er rip.
 Add in 1 tsp of salt, turn the heat down and stir fry the spinach until it's done. If it starts to get too dry, add a bit more water.
 In a seperate bowl, whip 4 cups of plain yogurt until it's smooth and creamy.
 Add in the spinach mixture and you're done.
   Now here's where you can go two ways. Serve it as I did as a vegetable side dish or you can serve it as a relish with other dishes. The spinach can either be served cold, or if you're running out of room in the fridge (like me) at room temperature. 
  So there you have it, a quick spinach side dish.
   Coming up next, the flavor magic of squash and peanuts, (yipes, did I really just write that?)  the 99 cent a pound wonder when you wonder what you can cook for cheap! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Great use of spinach! Love the heat and spice!!

  2. I just wish I knew what half of these ingredients were! I would love to try some of this food! looks great kathy!



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