Monday, February 17, 2014

Chana Saag & Snowshoeing

This weekend, my fiancé surprised me with a Valentine's trip to a B&B out in western Massachusetts with ample opportunities for snowshoeing. We returned to the same place I had surprised him with last year and it was awesome. We snowshoed at the Fitzgerald conservation area and up to the Mt. Holyoke summit house on the Skinner conservation area. The views were incredible! They have had an incredible amount of snow out there, so the surrounding country looked so picturesque and pretty surreal. There was also an auto road on the mountain, which people were ATV-ing and snowboarding down, but it's most ideal use would be for hill repeats and descending practice. I am definitely returning on bike during my next Gordon Conference at Mt. Holyoke.

My fiancé took me out for our Valentine's date on Saturday in downtown Northampton, which actually has an incredible number of vegetarian restaurants.  Many of our best dates have happened over Indian food, so we decided Indian it would be! (We haven't had it in a while because our favorite restaurant closed.) Furthermore, I haven't mastered the art of cooking Indian food, except for my pumpkin curry. We chose India Palace and were blown away by their chutneys (especially the mango chutney) and their Chana Saag. I had never had this creamy spinach sauce over chickpeas (it's most usually found with paneer) and this instantly became our favorite dish ever. So much so, that we spent most of the drive home researching how to make chana saag so that we could have it for dinner again when we got home.

Dinner was more than halfway a success, which means that it was successful since we were comparing it directly against our favorite Indian dish ever! At the very least, we enjoyed it and it felt that we should share the recipe and our findings with you. The saag will get another iteration before perfection, but the naan was great just as we found it! So give it a try and I hope you enjoy it!

Chana Saag

2 16-oz packages frozen spinach, thawed
1.5 inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled
8 cloves garlic
1 white onion
5t corriander
3t cumin
2t turmeric
1/2t cayanne pepper (I added 1 1/4t and it was waaaaay too spicy. Start conservatively, depending on how potent your cayenne is.)
2 cinnamon sticks, ground
1t garam masala* (our store bought garam masala was too bitter, so we ended up helping the overall blend with an additional 1t tandoori masala)
2- 16oz cans chickpeas
1 can light coconut milk
1c plain unsweetened soymilk
1/2c nutritional yeast

*We started our saag from this recipe, but I doubled it and veganized it. Fortunately, I forgot to double the spices originally. The garham masala that we got from Whole Foods did not work very well in this recipe at all. Tasting after the first pass was very bitter, not warm as masala should be. I would try the garam masala suggested by the author of the saag recipe. The other problem was that this recipe called for way too much cayenne pepper! I like spicy, but I was using a new bottle of pepper and we had to work very hard to balance that out, along with the bitterness of the store-bought garam masala.

Add spices and spinach to the food processor. Food process until smooth, adding a bit of coconut milk to help the spinach blend thoroughly. If using a high powered blender, large chunks of garlic & ginger can be added. If a normal food processor, food process those first with the onion to make sure that they get pureed throughly. Add spiced spinach puree and all other ingredients to a large pot. Let simmer for ~1hr to let flavors infuse.

Just follow this recipe and you'll be a very happy camper! It was great! We added 2 cloves of diced garlic because we love garlic naan, but it definitely didn't need that modification.

One more picture. I love the angled winter light casting shadows on naked trees :)

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