Saaging

Garden Saag

The question people have asked me over the last three weeks is this: Well, what have you been eating?

It’s this. It’s a bastardization of Indian saag (the kind I used to adore eating with paneer), made by sautéing spinach and kale and whatever other greens crop up in my kitchen with garlic and ginger, then simmering them into submission with a can of coconut milk. Hit haphazardly with an immersion blender, the greens collapse into a green mass just liquid enough to deserve a bowl. (Say the word saag aloud, so it rhymes with “clog,” and you’ll know how the dish gets its name; it’s a real slump of a thing.)

I eat the saag alone, or draped over roasted chicken or millet, or I thin it with a bit of stock (or additional coconut milk) and puree it in a real blender until it’s silky smooth. Then I use it as a grown-up sauce, for grilled salmon or halibut. It’s what I’ll be making ahead to take camping this weekend, which means I’ll eat it Dr. Seuss-style for days and days—on a boat, on a train, in a box, with a fox.

So yes, in week three of this silly thing, my culinary spirit is still, well, saaging. But at least there’s this. And for that, I’m thankful.

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Garden Saag (PDF)
There is an awkward, pubescent moment in every Seattle garden each year; it usually exists between June and August, when the days are just at their peak length, when the kitchen excitement over tiny fresh greens has died but the tidal wave of mature summer tomatoes has yet to begin. In this span of two weeks, the garden grows. It’s exactly what we wanted it to do, isn’t it; yet, when the workhorses of our early summer gardens, the greens, really get down to business, we’re often overwhelmed. When spinach, kale, and arugula threaten to take over every inch of your living space—or any greens, really, as long as they’re coming in massive quantities—make this sauce. Inspired by Indian saag, a spinach dish often draped over paneer (Indian cheese), it’s delicious on its own, mixed into rice, or draped over a delicately grilled slab of fish.

Light coconut milk will work for the recipe, but the flavor will suffer.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 4 servings

1 tablespoon ghee or unsalted butter
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3/4 pound fresh spinach (regular or baby), cleaned and chopped
1 medium bunch kale (about 1/2 pound), ribs removed, cleaned and chopped
1 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
Small pinch red chili flakes (optional)
Kosher salt

Heat a large, wide pot over medium-high heat. Add the ghee, then the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, until the garlic is soft, about a minute. Add the spinach and kale and cook until the greens are wilted, stirring frequently. Add the coconut milk (water and solids, if the contents have separated), the chili flakes (if you like spice), and salt to taste. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost gone, another few minutes.

Using an immersion blender or a food processor, partially blend the greens until they’re spoonable but still a bit chunky, and serve as a side dish. (To make a sauce, simply puree until completely smooth.)

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6 Comments

Filed under farmer's market, garden, gluten-free, recipe, side dish, vegetarian

6 responses to “Saaging

  1. Lo

    This looks amazing!! I will definitely try it out! Can’t wait to see you, Jim and Graham soon!!!

  2. Love your phrase ‘awkward pubescent moment’ :)
    Have a great camping trip!

    L

  3. caetie

    Jess, this recipe is such a keeper. I made a double batch tonight and plan to spoon it over everything I can think of for the next week to use up the leftovers, save the chocolate zucchini bread I made last weekend (although maybe?). Thanks for reminding me to cook with coconut milk.

  4. Oh, Jess.

    I’ve been catching up on your journey, with hysterics and tears in equal measure, and mostly, with heaps of empathy. I’d ship you a double-size box of extra strength, endurance and humor, if I could.

    Until then? Saag is one of my favorite things on earth, the thing I would turn to, by choice, had I anything in the world to eat. That said, I’m not sure I’d remember it, if faced with the list you are faced with. Kudos to you for having hte presence of mind. And garden. And spirit. Here’s to another ten minutes of fortitude (and weird herbal tea, and half-cups of coffee, coconut milk or otherwise).

    xo,
    Molly

  5. I wish you could have brought a small batch of the saag with you to the Greenbrier for that sad, sad chicken breast. It needed a lot of love.

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