Thursday, December 1, 2011

Creamed Spinach And Mushrooms, Fast, Perfect For The Holiday Table

   It's been one of those weeks. Thanksgiving's over and we're on the greased chute through the rest of the Holidays. No matter what Holiday you celebrate this time of the year... take it from me, you will be eating! Like that Bearded Dude at the Men's Warehouse says on TV... "I guarantee it!" Except this Holiday is not gonna give you two pairs of pants... no matter how much you may need them. Yeah, leggings. So what? If the stilettos are high enough, everybody looks great. Even if you need to wear an oxygen mask with them.

   I start getting antsy shortly after Halloween, worrying about what I'm going to be staring down  the barrel of food-wise during the Merry Making season. When we got married I had this bright idea about a Holiday Wedding, and this was waaaay before the days of the Lifetime Channel. White roses, evergreens and holly. What a romantic season to celebrate a wedding/anniversary. Right?  I must have had rocks in my head. I never though about the fact that I was bunching up a wedding anniversary, Christmas, Channuka, The Winter Solstice, Alan's birthday and New Years Eve all in one little month. The relative factor alone on that one is off the charts. Really. Take my word for it. Mixing up a bunch of San Francisco blue collar Italians with a bunch of Connecticut Jewish Academics.

   Of course none of these people like any of the same sorts of things to eat.. even within the same family. Some will eat Indian, some won't. Some will eat Italian food, but only certain sorts of Italian food. My mother is more or less a vegetarian. My father eats anything, and so on and so forth. Figuring out what to feed everyone is almost like having a Rubiks Cube lodged in my brain. The pieces turn, and turn and turn.  There is one thing however that everyone seems to like around the Holidays, a dish that screams I'm special! This is a special meal! Somebody gave a damn!  I'm talking creamed spinach. It's better than regular spinach's creamed! It's also a side dish that fits in well with all sorts of cuisines. Everybody seems to have a version of creamed spinach, the French, the Italians, the Chinese, and of course the Indians.

   When a lot of people think Indian food and spinach they go right to saag paneer, he classic Indian spinach dish served with tasty chunks of paneer cheese. But saag paneer is only one of many culinary tricks with spinach found in the Indian kitchen. There are other creamed spinach recipes and one in particular just screams Holiday Menu... Khumb Jahanara aka Creamed Spinach with Shitake Mushrooms. After all what what's not special about a dish named after the Lady that the Taj Mahal was built for ?

This recipe comes together pretty quickly with the help of a food processor, it serves 6 to 8 and in a pinch you can even use frozen chopped spinach. This isn't your grandmas' creamed spinach.

Indian Creamed Spinach And Mushrooms


What you'll need:

 2 Tbs vegetable oil
 8 to 10 shallots
 1 fresh green chili (serrano)
 A 1 inch piece of ginger
 2 medium onions
 3 medium tomatoes or 1 16 oz can of tomatoes
 1 and 1/2 tsp of salt
 2 tsp of ground coriander
 1 tsp of kashmiri chili or 1 tsp paprika mixed with 1/2 tsp of cayenne
 2 tsp of cumin
 1 tsp of turmeric
 4 cups of fresh spinach (one of those bags of fresh spinach is what I use) or an equal amount of frozen chopped spinach
 3 Tbs of besan (garbanzo aka chickpea) flour
 3/4 lb of shitake mushrooms stemmed and thinly sliced

 1/2 cup of whipping cream or 1/2 cup half and half
 1/2 cup ground cashews.

Here's what to do:

Heat the oil in a large skillet or kadhai.
When the oil is hot, toss in  the chopped onion, chopped shallots, ginger, and green chili.
Cook these down for about 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent.

  Add in:
 the chopped tomatoes

  Kashimiri chili or cayenne/ paprika mixture
Cook all of this mixed well for about 5 minutes on a medium heat.
Add in the chopped fresh spinach or defrosted and well drained frozen spinach.

 Cook the spinach until it's wilted. This should happen in just about 5 minutes or so.
 Turn down the heat, cover the pot partially and cook for 5 minutes.
 Put everything into a food processor.

Grind it up into a smooth puree.
Put it back into the skillet or kadhai and reheat it.
Add in the besan flour.

Mix the flour in well with a whisk. You don't want any unsightly lumps.
Add in the mushrooms.

Put the lid on the pan partially and cook everything for another 10 minutes. The mushrooms should be tender.
Add in the whipping cream or half and half.

...and the ground cashews.
Reheat everything thoroughly and serve it up.

   This recipe is also one that can be made a day ahead and then just reheated before serving. It's a real find for those festive meals and potluck evenings with picky eaters that seem to crop up around this time of year. If you don't want to get that fancy, or you can't get hold of shitakes, try it with plain old crimini or white mushrooms. Inexpensive, easy and fast, it serves 6 to 8 people as a side dish. It's a recipe worth building a momument to.

   Meanwhile on the home/work front, we're turning in our script this week and I'll be clearing the decks for cooking. So during the rest of the month I'm going to be focusing on all sorts of dishes that fill all sorts of holiday needs, The Good, The Easy and The Fast! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori 


  1. Yes, you can't beat something named after the Taj Mahal lady can you?!

  2. One of my favorite dishes of all time...and the Taj is so romantic (and kinda bittersweet)!

  3. The curry looks creamy and totally inviting. Yes, a wonderful addition to the holiday table!

  4. Will be doing this recipe.
    On an aside, I often wonder why Palak Paneer (spinach paneer) as eaten in India is marketed as Saag Paneer?
    Saag is mustard greens with a bunch of leaves called "bothia" mixed in, it is mashed around for a long time with makki atta (maize flour) to cream it, and the bitter taste is quite different from spinach. The "tarka" is quite different too, very simple, just green chilles, onions and masala and fresh julienned ginger soaked in vinegar to accompany.



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