Chana Palak

Kaki,

This turned out sooo goood!

But I don’t know what to call it.  I followed a recipe for Chana Masala, but at the last minute I added some spinach.  Does that make it Chole Palak?  Does that have a different blend of spices in the sauce?  I’m going to call it Chana Palak, but let’s just establish that I can in no way claim this to be an authentic chana palak recipe.  It’s just freakin’ delicious, no matter the name.

Also?  I thought for sure I would want to add some feta cheese or sour cream to up the flavor, but it honestly didn’t need it.  Vegan wins again.  Who knew?  🙂

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Chana Palak

inspired by Cookie and Katie

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas
  • 8 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

Make your rice: Combined rice and water in a medium, lidded pot.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and leave covered to steam for another 10 minutes.  Set aside until chana palak is finished.

In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Once shimmering, turn the heat down to medium-low*, then add the cumin seeds.  Stir the seeds around in the oil constantly for a minute or two, until you can really smell their lovely cumin-y scent.  (If you smell any hint of burning, it’s already too late; carefully wipe the oil and seeds out of the pan and start over.**)

Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and raise the heat to medium again.  Saute these aromatics for about five minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the garam masala, coriander, tumeric, salt, and cayenne to the onion mixture, stirring to evenly distribute the spices.  Toast the spices for about two minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the can of diced tomatoes and stir to deglaze the pan.  After the tomatoes have warmed through for a minute, raise the heat a notch or two and add the chickpeas.  Simmer the mixture for about 10-minutes, adding the spinach and cilantro at about the 5-minute mark.

Spoon over the rice and dig in!

Enjoy, Kaki!

-Caitlin

*I definitely read this instruction the first time I made this.  What do you mean, “lingering burning smell” in my kitchen?  I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

**See * above.

Recipe Recap

Kaki!

Fall.  Is.  Happening.

Acorn squash!  Soup!  Gingerbread!

So it still gets up to 85-degrees here, so what?  It’s a new season of tasty things I haven’t eaten in a year and I am all about it. Here’s what I’ve been making these days:

Mac-N-Cheese in Acorn Squash

Girl, have you made mac-n-cheese from scratch?  It’s way easier than I thought it would be.  It’s a white roux, plus milk, plus cheese.  Then you add some mustard and some other flavors.  Add noodles. That’s it.

Except of course I took it about four steps further, because I cannot leave anything alone.  I added 8 ounces of frozen (thawed and squeezed dry) spinach to the sauce, which is something I will definitely repeat.  I roasted acorn squash to serve as an edible bowl, which was tasty, though the texture between the roasted squash and the noodles was a little too similar.  I mixed Parmesan and panko breadcrumbs together and added them in the last 10 minutes of baking to the top of the whole mess.  That was a good choice their crunch added much needed texture to the dish.

Best part, though?  I made this at Cooper’s, and at the last minute we added some of this garlic-y bread dipping seasoning she had in her pantry (not that exact brand, but similar).  It made it, just amped up the flavor tenfold.

Split-Pea Soup

I’d never had split-pea soup before, Kaki.  But Elissa Altman mentioned it in her memoir as a really tasty and yet, er, cost-effective recipe, so obviously I had to try it.  I’m really glad I did, this soup is tasty.  But a couple of notes: this soup is mostly about the ham.  Great flavor, but it’d be hard to de-meat this particular recipe.  Also, it was really not that tasty just after I finished making it, but the next day it was way, way tastier.  I’m used to soups tasting better after a day or so, but this was a drastic improvement.

Gingerbread Cake Cookies

Tasty.  Really tasty.  The dough had a ton of molasses flavor, almost too much, but it mellowed a lot after baking.  Even so, these were just shy of what I was looking for.  I’m going to try this Drunken Molasses Ginger Cookie recipe next and see if it has that elusive, “This is it!” quality I’m looking for.

What have you been making lately, my dear?  Do tell. 🙂

Happy Monday,

Caitlin

Spinach Pie

Dear Kaki,

Have you worked with phyllo dough at all?  I attempted, if memory serves, on two separate occassions to use the stuff, and never got the results I was hoping for.  Enter puff pastry (again); all of the buttery layers with none of the work, done and done.

Because Kaki, I freakin’ love spanakopita*.  Well, all Greek food, really.  But spanakopita, ah, how I love thee.  I love thee for your buttery, flakey pastry.  I love thee for your can-do-no-wrong spinach-and-cheese combo.  And I love that I can relatively cheaply and easily whip up a pie inspired by your awesomeness and eat is at an entree instead of as an appetizer.

This also magically falls into the category of “Vegetarian food that non-vegetarians probably won’t roll their eyes at.”  Which can be important.

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Spinach Pie

makes 6 servings

adapted from Budget Bytes and Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed very dry**
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10-15 grinds fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoons flour, plus more for rolling out the puff pastry
  • 6 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 3 large eggs, divided (I like to beat all 3 eggs together and then pour a little bit into a small bowl; it’ll be used for the egg wash at the end)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed via instructions on package (save the other sheet of puff pastry for something else)

Pre-heat oven to 375*F.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat***.  Add the olive oil and heat until the oil shimmers.  Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and saute another minute, until garlic is fragrant.

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Add the squeezed-dry spinach, dill, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and flour to the skillet, and stir into onion and garlic mixture.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  There should be no more liquid in the pan very early, but keep cooking so the flour loses some of its raw flavor.  Remove skillet from heat to cool for a few minutes.

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Combine feta and eggs (reserving some for the egg wash) in a medium mixing bowl.  Once cooled a bit, add the spinach mixture to the bowl and stir to incorporate the eggs and feta.  Set filling aside.

Reserve a little of the beaten eggs for the egg wash later.

Reserve a little of the beaten eggs for the egg wash later.

Unfold the puff pastry and lay flat on a lightly-floured counter.  Lightly flour the top of the puff pastry, then use a rolling pin to roll out dough until it is several inches larger than your baking dish.  (I used a 9-inch round ceramic dish, so I probably rolled it out to around a 14″ square.)

Not yet rolled out...

Not yet rolled out…

Rolled out!

Rolled out!

Gently lift the rolled-out puff pastry and place it in your baking dish, making sure the dough extends over the sides of the dish.  Spoon the filling into the puff-pastry-lined dish.  Fold the overhanging edges of puff pastry over the filling.  It should cover the filling completely.

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Brush the top of the pie with the reserved egg.  Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes.  The center will really puff up at the end, so wait until you see that.

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Remove the pie from the oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes. The pastry will deflate until it is roughly as level as it was when it was un-baked.  Slice into 6 pieces and enjoy!

Deflated

Deflated

Hope this lovely early fall is treating you well, my dear.

–Caitlin

 

*And samosas.  And calzones.  And tacos and burritos.  Actually, if it’s a tasty filling with a handheld, carb-y outside, odds are I dig it.  And I suspect I am in the majority with this feeling.

**Really, really dry.  I placed the thawed spinach in my strainer, then got a bowl just smaller than the strainer and pressed it down into the spinach to squeeze it against the sides of the strainer.  Then I took handfuls of the spinach and squeezed that, too.  Liquid in the spinach could make your final crust soggy, and nobody wants that.

***That’s a lot of medium.