The Saag Spiral

I often say “Eww, I don’t like [insert food here] ” which is a secret code for “There’s something weird or gross or smelly or just ugly about said food, I don’t want to try it because I’ve already made up my mind that it will be disgusting.” Such was the case about a year ago when my boyfriend tried to get me to go to an Indian restaurant with him.  I probably had never SEEN Indian food, much less tried it. I don’t remember what finally made me relent (probably that I was told it was spicy – which I LOVE) but one day we went out to a buffet and the moment I had my first taste of saag, I was absolutely hooked.  I fell into what can only be described as a “saag spiral” where for the first few months it was all I wanted to eat. When I wasn’t eating saag, I was thinking about eating saag and talking about eating this wonderful dish with its many depths of flavors. If I was eating saag, I was already thinking about the next time I would get to eat saag, and so on. It got ugly.

Anyway, I knew it was something that I had to attempt to make. I swear I looked at every single saag recipe on the internet and it was almost impossible for me to decide on one, being that they all varied greatly in ingredients, spices, how to cook it, etc. Due to… something – I’m not quite sure how it worked out, but I wound up thinking I was following a saag paneer recipe, until Luke pointed out I was actually following this recipe for palak paneer. Oops. But by that time I had already started cooking it, so there was no going back.  I had already made the paneer – which was actually very awesome to make. Maybe it’s a little sad how excited I got when I saw the curds separating from the whey and dumping the pot’s contents into the strainer with the cheesecloth in it, wrapping it up and then hours later having a block of cheese. At least if nothing else turned out, I made CHEESE!

I also wanted to make something else to go with it, of course. I didn’t want to take on making 500 things on the stove top (clearly I’m not ready for that, ha.) so earlier in the day I had started making chicken makhini in the Crockpot. I had come across the blog A Year of Slow Cooking which contained this recipe for chicken makhini so I had that cooking all day – which made my whole house smell AMAZING. My dogs were even walking around sniffing and tasting the air, and I can’t say that I blame them being that making all this Indian food gave me a great excuse to go to Penzeys Spices and stock up on a bunch of great spices – something that my pantry really needs more of.

FINALLY it was time to eat. With forks, being that I did go buy some so that I have an adequate number in the house. We had garlic naan (not homemade – although that is something that I plan to make once the weather is nice enough to bust the grill out) and basmati rice, the chicken makhini, and the palak paneer. The chicken makhini was really good, but definitely not chicken makhini. Don’t get me wrong – it was still really delicious (and loaded with chili powder) but it was more like a different Indian dish that I don’t recall the name of (being that at Indian buffets it’s usually “the brown sauce chicken” or “the red sauce chicken” etc.).  I WILL be trying in the future a more traditional makhini recipe to try to get that restaurant feel to it. The palak paneer was enjoyable, but I was sort of angry at it for not being my beloved saag paneer. Sigh.

And I should just mention, cleaning up after making this dinner sucked! I swear I somehow managed to dirty every single utensil/pot/pan/plate in my entire kitchen. I also felt really hindered in making so many different dishes because my kitchen is laid out so stupid. There’s virtually NO counter space and not enough flat surfaces to put things on, and I can’t believe I was lucky enough to not have things fall over being that when I had to move something quickly it wound up teetering on the edge of something.  GAH! These are all things I never had to worry about before, but oh well. In the coming weeks I’ll have to see what I can do to make life a bit easier and free up some space. And to add to the list of things I need, I need a spoon rest (even better – this lid AND spoon rest and pot holders.

8 Responses to “The Saag Spiral”
  1. Natalie says:

    That looks so good! Pretty advanced for a new cook. You should post recipes!

  2. Holly says:

    OK… so I have never had Indian, the smell of curry GAGS me.. but this looks really good. I am a total ignoramous.. so what is what? Is the green stuff the paneer?

    • 29andhungry says:

      The paneer is actually the white stuff in the green stuff (green stuff being saag). Holly, you should just go to an Indian buffet one night as a way to test things out to see if you like it. Star of India on Delaware in Kemore is my favorite and how i got so obsessed with Indian food! I figured “ok, $10 to see if I like this stuff…”

  3. Sounds good! I was thinking about making some Indian tonight – I think this post sealed the deal. There are obviously a million recipes on the internet, but sometimes I just want to sit down and read a cookbook (other people do that, right?) I’ve been quite happy with Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries ( Since you’re already buying spices at Penzy’s you shouldn’t have a problem finding ingredients for the large majority of the recipes.

    Also, if you happen to be in a cookbook shopping mood you should grab Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything ( the recipes are wonderful and the way he sets it up really helps you understand how to substitute things to create different dishes. It’ll have a recipe for a chinese stir fry with 5 simple variations that turn it into a vietnamese stir fry, a vegetarian stir fry, a burmese stew, etc.

    • 29andhungry says:

      Thanks for the info! And actually, i think somewhere I HAVE that How To Cook Everything book that someone gave me a few years ago (as a joke, ha ha) I will have to dig it up again and give it a read – especially since a big thing I’m running into is that I find a recipe I think i would like to try but then threes one or more ingredients that I don’t like, and then i just back off from it totally being that I have NO clue how to substitute things!

      And that first cookbook… Oh yes, I will be buying that for sure!

  4. Leslie Richardson says:

    So ambitious Erin! Good for you. I’m jealous you have Penzeys near you. I have to order but it’s definitely the go to place for spices

    • 29andhungry says:

      They just opened here maybe last year or so… Such an awesome place! I got some of their vanilla sugar for my coffee and it is THE BEST! I swear i could spend $100 at that store in 5 minutes flat. Its definitely helped me with stocking up on spices!!

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