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Spinach with Yogurt & Chickpeas

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Serves six.

Yields about 3 cups.

  • Make the menu:
    A Passage to India
  • by Melissa Clark from Fine Cooking
    Issue 90

Part side dish, part sauce, this puréed spinach is my take on the Indian dish called saag. Thick, Greek-style yogurt is the key to getting the texture of this dish just right. You can buy it at most grocery stores, or make your own by straining regular whole-milk yogurt.

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, medium diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped (1-1/2 Tbs.)
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • Two 10-oz. boxes frozen whole-leaf spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt or regular whole-milk yogurt, strained
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Heat the butter in a large (preferably 12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, and coriander and cook very briefly, stirring constantly and taking care not to let the spices scorch or the garlic get the least bit browned, 15 to 30 seconds. Add the spinach and 1/2 cup water. Cook, stirring, until well mixed and heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with the salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor, add the yogurt, and purée. Return to the skillet and stir in the chickpeas. Set over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot. The spinach should be moist and even a bit saucy, so add water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep hot until ready to serve.

Make Ahead Tips

You can cook the spinach and purée it with the yogurt up to two hours before you serve this dish, but wait until just before you eat to add the chickpeas and reheat.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 140; Fat (g): 6; Fat Calories (kcal): 50; Saturated Fat (g): 3; Protein (g): 7; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Carbohydrates (g): 17; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): 300; Cholesterol (mg): 15; Fiber (g): 5;

Photo: Scott Phillips

The chickpeas are a drawback to this. While the flavor of the spinach is just OK, the texture contrast between the spinach and chickpeas looks and feels strange. It seems like they're included just to add something, but not to benefit the dish. I'm a big fan of Indian food but will not include this in my favorites.

I really like this dish. Have made it two times. Second time left out the chickpeas and thought it was much better. Very good with Chicken Tikka Masala...

I was expecting this to taste somewhat like the saag paneer that I get at an Indian restaurant, but it missed the mark. It just didn't have enough Indian spiciness, and the hard little chickpeas contrasted too much with the smoothness of the sauce. Perhaps if you tweaked this recipe, you could get more Indian flavor from it. I used lowfat, not whole milk Greek yogurt, so maybe that made a difference.

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