This recipe is the result of much trial and error. It is also the result of a revelation I had while making Gumbo Z’herbes last week. I was really struggling to get my saag nice and creamy. There was a specific texture I was going for and no matter how long I cooked those raw greens in oil, they retained more of the fiber than I wanted. It also required WAY more fat than I was interested in eating on a regular basis. I really wanted to find a way to get the greens to be nice and creamy and smooth without adding 4 sticks of butter and if I could cut down the cooking time, that would be a huge win too. Fortunately, I had the gumbo recipe to contend with and all the Gumbo Z’herbes recipes I came across called for boiling and then pureeing the greens. What resulted was the exact texture I wanted for my saag! It was smooth, creamy, didn’t use a ton of fat and took much less time to cook. I made a mental note and then added this step to the recipe and viola! Saag perfection!
These moments where creating one recipe gives me insight to another are the moments I live for. I love connecting the dots and thinking about how so much of the food we eat is influenced by our culture but then there are also the intrinsic characteristics of the base ingredients which transcend everything. Fibrous greens need to be boiled to get soft. That’s that. Whether you are making greens in India or Southeastern Louisiana, that rule applies no matter what.
I’m excited to not only have a saag recipe that I can share with you guys but also one that I can make for myself!! I’m still getting a ton of greens in my CSA each week and having this recipe in my back pocket means there will be no greens going in the compost!
Serves 5 - 6
- 3 bunches of greens, chopped
- 3 allspice berries & 5 peppercorns in a Sachet d’espice (wrapped in a piece of cheese cloth) or a reusable tea infuser
- 4 cloves of garlic, 2 smashed and 2 minced
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- ¼ cup of grape seed or other veggie oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons of garam masala
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric
- ½ teaspoon of cayenne
- Salt to taste
- ¼ cup of unsalted butter (optional)
- 1 cup of Greek yogurt (optional)
- In a large pot add the greens, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and the Sachet d’espice with allspice and peppercorns in it (this is so you can fish them out of the greens easier after they are cooked). Add enough water just to cover the greens and boil for an hour.
- Drain the greens and reserve the cooking liquid. Put the greens in a blender with some cooking liquid and puree until they are completely smooth. You may need to add more cooking liquid to get it smooth.
- In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high heat with remaining 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds. Cook until they start to sizzle and pop a little and then add the onion, ginger and minced garlic. Lower heat and cook until onions are translucent.
- Add the tomato paste to the onions and cook until it’s slightly darker in color. Add spices and cook for a minute to get the raw flavor out of the turmeric. Then add the greens and cook through for about 20-30 minutes. Add more of the reserved cooking liquid if needed.
- For more creaminess you can add ¼ cup of butter and 1 cup of Greek yogurt. Let it cook until hot and bubbling and then serve over warm rice.