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Phoebe Putnam
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me in Jaipur. Hi all! I want to share with you my favorite home-cooked Indian dish, which at home my husband calls "my mom's spinach," because no one in India, apparently, but Uttam's mom makes this particular spinach dish. She invented it. Now let me be absolutely honest: when Uttam and I first went to India, he was very excited for me to taste his "mom's spinach," and I was rather less excited. I don't like saag, the Punjabi dish that is creamy and mushy and dark brown and redolent of cloves. I just don't have a taste for it. So I was relieved and delighted when my future mother-in-law set before us little bowls of brothy, tomato-y spinach, hot and fresh tasting, flavored with cumin and flecked with golden drops of ghee, and a tall stack of soft, gently toasted chapthis. We ate it in 120 degree weather, just before the monsoon season, on the cool marble floor of their great room, fans whirring, cross-legged, with our fingers. But I think it's perfect for winter too, and hope you'll try it soon. Braised Greens in Buttery Tomato Broth (& fast fresh bread!) Cooking time: ~ 45 min, start to finish, serves 2-4. INGREDIENTS SPICES We can all agree that the intimidating thing about Indian food is the feeling that there are all these spices. But the good news is that this is a fiction. There aren't all these spices. There are really only 5 important ones, and you use at least four of them every time you cook. The secret of cooking Indian food at home is this little round tin; no cooking happens in Indian homes without it This little tin is the best. It sits on top of our microwave, over our stove, and is much nicer than fiddling with a lot of screw tops. Mine has my name engraved on it because my husband is romantic like that, but a regular one costs about $7. The spices should run you about $2-4 per bag in an Indian grocery store. Going clockwise, starting with the container with the spoon, you'll want to have on hand: 1. Mustard seeds; 2. Cumin seeds (whole). 3. Turmeric. 4. Salt. 5. Cayenne pepper. 6. & 7. The two lumpy beige powders are cumin powder (in the center) and coriander powder. In terms of #s 1-5, these don't vary from home to home. #s 6-7: Someone might substitute something else for the cumin powder, which I like, but basically you'll always have the others. OTHER INGREDIENTS: - When you're buying the tin and spices, also buy a small bag of "atta" (whole wheat flour), & a jar of ghee (you can use butter if you like but ghee is nicer). Think how cool you'll look going up to the shopkeeper and asking for atta! (pronounched AH-ta). - Two bags of fresh baby spinach - 1 jar of canned tomatoes (doesn't matter how big; you won't use all of it) - 1 lemon... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2009 at The Best American Poetry