I opened the fridge the other day and groaned when I saw the ridiculous amount of spinach we had somehow managed to acquire over the week. Between the CSA, a Costco run, and an over-sized box of baby greens someone had contributed to a pot-luck dinner that didn't get used, I was looking at about 8lbs of the stuff. I love it. I really do. And we all know it's super good for us. But the obligation I felt to cook all of it in new and interesting ways so it wouldn't turn to slimy green mush was daunting to say the least.
Until I remembered Palak Paneer, one of my favorite Indian dishes, and oh-so-easy to make.
Galvanized into action, I put about an inch of water in my stew pot and turned the burner on to bring it to the boil. While I was waiting for the water to heat up, I minced a couple of large onions and opened a 28oz can of tomatoes. I then got a little ramekin out of my cabinet and began compiling the spices I would need: 2 tsp cumin seeds, 2 tsp salt, 2 tsp garam masala, 2 tsp chili and 1 TBSP curry powder.
I added the spinach to the now-boiling water and cooked it for about 5 minutes, keeping the color a bright vivid green. I then drained it, reserving the cooking liquid, and popped it into my blender.
Into the same pot, I added about 2 TBSP of oil, and, when it was hot, I threw in the onions and allowed them to caramelize a little (about 10 minutes) before adding in the spices. When, after about a minute, they gave off a lovely toasted smell, I tipped the can of diced tomatoes in and stirred it well. About 15 minutes, and a few ladlefuls of spinach water later, which I'd added to keep the whole thing from sticking to the bottom of my pan, I poured the pureed spinach mixture into the pot and turned the heat down so it could simmer.
That was it! I now had a huge vat of Palak which I could freeze and use in increments. That first night, I kept enough aside for dinner, and, about 5 minutes before serving, slipped some thin strips of boneless, skinless chicken breast into the gently simmering sauce. Served on top of a mound of steaming Basmati rice, it was a perfect -- and healthy -- dinner that had barely taken me a half hour to put together. And that 8 lbs of spinach that could have easily slimed up in the fridge awaiting attention was instead a base for 2 more meals when I chose to defrost them. I wonder what I'll add to it next time? Extra Firm Tofu? Lentils? Paneer? The answer is: whatever!