Thursday, April 26, 2007

Makkai Palak

Makkai Palak
Originally uploaded by g_food.
Second time's the Charm

It prolly sounds really wierd to everyone (particularly since I am a vegetarian).....but I have not had much experience dealing with *fresh* veggies. Of course I eat veggies ....but *fresh* eating happens in India. And there, I do not have to deal with the cleaning, cutting, storage etc of the veggies. In the US, till now I have not had the time or the money to buy (particularly) fresh greens. The boxed spinach and frozen methi were good enough.......especially since I was cooking for 5-8 people.

But now I do have the money (time is debatable). A few months ago I bought a bunch of delicious and beautiful chard. Stupefied by the beauty I quickly rinsed and sauted it. The flavor...the smell.....the grits of dirt in my mouth! It was horrid! Still, I have tried to get over that and made 'Makkai palak' (Corned Spinach) with farm-fresh spinach. Only this time I remembered that farms (and hence the greens) have dirt and that I need to remove it.

So I used the great Alton Brown's trick --- wash the sink *thoroughly*, fill it with ice cold water, dunk the spinach and let hang out with occasional stirrings. Then drained the sink and ran the greens under running water for a full 5 mins, rubbing vigorously with my hands...........Excessive, I know......but realise that I have been burnt!

So here is a recipe (with due credit to Lalitha who provided crucial inputs).


2-3 cups ---------------------very very washed, roughly chopped spinach (thawed if using frozen)
1 inch -------------------------ginger root
2-3 cloves -------------------peeled garlic
1 -------------------------------Bay leaf
1 stick ------------------------Cinammon
3-4-----------------------------Big cardamom
3-4----------------------------Green chiliies, washed and 'tail' removed

Method: Put all the above in a deep pot and put just enough water so that half the spinach is covered. Turn on the heat to medium-high and let come to boil. let the boil continue for 5-8 minutes. The lesser the water you can use, the better.

Turn off the heat and cool a little bit. Then dunk a hand blender into the same pot (deep sides useful now!) and puree away. I have also used the plain old blender for this. However, this takes away the texture of the spinach too much for my liking. But its still *totally* edible.

Once pureed, put the puree on a low flame (same pot). Add the corn. Season to taste.

In the meantime:
1/4 ----------------------------red Onion, chopped
1/2 inch----------------------ginger, cut into long, thin strips
1/2 cup-----------------------Frozen corn, thawed
1/2 tsp-----------------------Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp-----------------------Red chili pwd
1/4 tsp-----------------------Garam masala
1 tsp--------------------------Oil

*Heat oil in a small pan. Sputter the cumin seeds, saute the onion for 3-4 minutes.
*Add the red chilli powder and ginger. Swirl around. Pour this over the spinach-corn mixture.
*Sprinkle the garam masala....and some lemon juice.

Ready to eat! with sides of turmeric rice and a simple zuchinni curry

What would I have done different? Well, before puree'ing I wanted to fish out the dry spices (cinammon, cardamom). I really should have put them in a cloth bundle (or tea infuser) to save some time.

I was watching Emeril the other day and he demonstrated a really great way to clean leeks. Made me think that one of the intimidating (bok choy!) things about using fresh (and unfamilar) veggies is that you dont know
a. how and what part to wash?
b. which part to use? and for what?

I realise that this sounds very stupid. But it is true for me. So it would be great if we can share ways and methods to clean, cut and store fresh veggies as well as recipes.


Asha said...

Great classic recipes.YUM!!!

I used to buy gritty palak,got tried of it and now use frozen!!:D

Richa said...

hey, makai palak looks YUMMY & so does zuchini subzi, love it!
I spend @ 2 minutes chopping the greeans but a looooooooong time cleaning them, so when someone else is cleaning the greens I keep hovering over them to make sure it is done well ;-) can be a little irritating at times ;-)

Mythili said...

Grits of dirt ... ROFL ! I know I am evil. So you did learn a valuable lesson!

Never heard of this combo.. will soon try it out :)

Good one!

Rozel said...

When I was a teenager I worked in a restaurant in Germany as a dishwasher and general kitchen assistant. One of my jobs was cleaning farm fresh lettuce by the box load - loads of dirt and slugs n stuff, yeuch!

I learned the best way to deal with all of this is to full the sink with loads of cold water and add a handful of salt. Take your greens, slice off the stalk so the leaves float free and douse them in the sink. Swirl them around gently - you don't want to batter the greens. The grit sinks to the bottom, the "livestock shrivels in the brine and sinks too and the clean crisp leaves float!

All you need to do now is drain, rinse, drain and use.

I love your blog, having just discovered it whilst looking for a quick carrot pickle recipe. It's inspirational :)