I have had a fix on saag lately. It all came about while in France. I was asked to make a an Indian green side dish for Christmas dinner that would complement everyone else’s fish main course. Saag seemed to be the simplest dish for me to make last minute and that did not require me to purchase unusual spices that would require a specialty store – and Indian/Pakastani restaurants or stores for products are not common in France as they are in many states and cities in the US. In fact, to my surprise, much of what I saw listed or heard as being referred to as an Indian dish – such as a samosa – did not contain a single ingredient that is found in traditional Indian cuisine, but rather North African/Middle Eastern cuisine. So I knew I could make something simple and Indian inspired. And unlike traditional saag, I added a boost of protein and texture with almonds. It was so good – I put it on everything I ate. But the best application was brunch – in a dish of sweet potato hash, saag and an egg over easy with a raw almond parmesan.
Ok. It’s not a saag (pronounced like the car saab, but with a “g” instead of a “b”) because there are no mustard greens. Really it is a play on palak (spinach) but people don’t really know the difference and typically refer to it as a saag. And besides this is more Indian inspired than traditional. And it is so simple.
They key is to cook the spices first – this let’s out their essence and infuses the entire dish with a rich earthy flavor. I add them to the oil and it only takes 1-2 minutes before you start to smell the fragrance.
To simplify the spices required, I used a curry powder which is a spice mix. Every curry powder is different but essentially it will have turmeric, cumin, garlic, fennel, asafoetida, cardamom, clove and cayenne in varying degrees. It does not really matter which curry powder you use. I also add extra turmeric and cumin to bring out those earthy flavors and cayenne because I like the heat. Then I add in the ginger, give it a quick toss and add the onion which are cooked until they are translucent.
Add in chopped garlic. The reason you don’t cook the garlic with the onions is that cooking garlic for too long makes them bitter. Along with the garlic, add chopped chard and spinach. I use a mix of rainbow and swiss chard.
Stir every so often until the leaves are wilted. It looks like a lot of leaves at first but cooks down quite a bit.
In a food processor or Vitamix dry container, chop whole raw almonds. I would not replace this with almond meal. Almond meal will not add the same texture – and could potentially make this gummy.
Then add it to the cooked greens.
You can leave it whole as it. But I use a hand blender to break it up further and then salted to taste. Not cooking with the salt helps reduce the salt added to the dish. It also prevents the greens from breaking down too fast making the dish watery.
Oh saag, yummy saag. Flavorful, full of green goodness and both texture and protein from the almonds.
You can eat it in so many ways. As I mentioned, it was an accompaniment to everyone else’s fish and potatoes as a side dish.
I put it as a spread on a baguette with egg, cucumber and tomato for a sandwich during our three hour train ride back to Paris.
I’ve eaten it with cauliflower rice, topped on a baked sweet potato, with my nutshroom faux meatballs, with hard boiled eggs or as a topping on my cauliflower, flax crust nut-cheese pizza (coming soon). But my favorite application is for brunch.
With an egg over easy and a sweet potato hash. I love how the yolk oozes. But I have made this with scrambled egg whites for my family and friends who do not enjoy runny eggs.
My oh my, it is the perfect bite.
The sweet potato hash is easy. I love all the varieties of sweet potatoes I can find in the grocery store and farmer’s market. I have been a bit tired of the traditional sweeter orange sweet potato since the holidays and have been enjoying some of the other varieties – like this south american “white sweet potato.” I simply put it through the food processor to grate it but you can also use a hand grater or a mandoline. I leave the skin on, but you can always peel it. Then heat up a pan on medium heat with some ghee or oil (I prefer ghee, full fat cooks it so well) and put a handful of the sweet potato shreds in. If you let it cook for some time until crisp before turning it over, you will find it sticks together – nothing else is needed. Flip it over, crisp the other side, add salt and pepper.
The key to a good hash brown is adding enough fat – not too much so it is oily, but not too little that it does not crisp. if you do add too much fat, blot it on a paper towel. Plate and layer.
For the almond parmesan, I simply add almonds, nutritional yeast, salt and garlic powder to a food processor and blend until fine. And then top my egg with it and dig in.
Almond, Spinach, Chard Saag
- 2-3 Tbs ghee, coconut or olive oil
- 2 Tbs curry powder
- 2 Tbs tumeric
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- pinch of cayenne (optional)
- Ginger, 1 inch, skin removed and flesh diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion
- 1 pound chard, stems removed, chopped
- 1 pound spinach, large stems removed, chopped
- 1/2 cup ground fresh almonds
- salt and pepper to taste
Over medium, heat ghee/oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Add in spices and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add in ginger, stir and then add in onion and cook, stirring every so often until translucent (about 5 min). Add in garlic, chard and spinach and mix thoroughly. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, mixing every few minutes, until wilted and cooked. Add in ground almonds and mix. Eat as is or blend with a hand blender or in a food processor (when cool). Add salt and pepper to taste. Can be stored up to one week in the fridge.
Raw Almond Parmesan
- 1 cup almonds
- 2 Tbs nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until fine