Sunday, June 03, 2007

S is for Spinach Amti

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.
The "S" of Indian Vegetables
The letter S inspired a smorgarbord of thirty-two Indian flavors!

First, a sundry bunch of S vegetables...

Let's start with the svelte and stylish Spring Onion, also known as Scallions or green onions. The spring onion is almost two vegetables in one: the "white parts" are little onions that are great in starting off a stir-fry on an aromatic note, and the "green parts" make for a colorful and flavorful garnish. Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi share a great recipe for using up any spring onions that you may have left over from another recipe- rather than letting them wilt in your crisper, cook them into this comforting Spring Onion Dal.

The next vegetable is also a member of the onion family, one whose flavor is often described as something in between garlic and onion: it is the savory and snappy Shallot. G V Barve of Add Flavor uses the shallot in the traditional Southern Indian way- adding whole shallots to lentils, to make a delicious Shallot Sambar.

The next vegetable is an iconic member of the family of green leafy vegetables: the sprightly and salubrious Spinach. Readily available, inexpensive and a vegetable that cooks up in no time- the spinach is wonderful to keep on hand for everyday meals. Here are three easy ideas with spinach...

To start off, spinach soup, warm and satisfying. Raaga of The Singing Chef makes a quick and hassle-free Spinach Soup with aromatic notes from onion and garlic.

Next, some rice to go with the soup...

Suma of Veggie Platter teams spinach with carrots, and makes a batch of spicy and tasty Spinach Rice.

Raaga of The Singing Chef teams spinach with corn, and makes a pressure cooker version of Spinach Rice.

Then comes another green beauty, the Snap Pea, also called the Sugar Snap Pea, with a sweet bite hidden in its tender shell. Check this post from Food Blogga to see the different varieties of peas. Snap peas are eaten whole, pod and all. A Cook of Live To Cook makes an unusual Snap Pea Masala by cooking snap peas with moong dal and adding a spicy sauce of onion, tomato and coconut.

The next vegetable is a sturdy root vegetable with a saccharine personality and a healthful nature: none other than the Sweet Potato! Here are two ways with the sweet potato:

Ramya of Mane Adige shares her mom's recipe for a traditional Sweet Potato Sabzi, with sweet potato chunks tossed in an aromatic tempering, and garnished with coconut and cilantro.

A Cook of Live To Cook satisfies snack cravings on a rainy day with some golden brown Sweet Potato Rolls, logs of mashed sweet potato rolled in breadcrumbs and fried to perfection.

The next vegetable is commonly found in India, but might be strange and striking to non-Indians: it is the shapely spiral Snake Gourd. Why is it named that way? Because it really does look like a long sinuous serpent...you can see some pictures here. Here are four easy, home-style ways to cook snake gourd in combination with four different types of lentils.

Sheela of Delectable Victuals uses the tender frozen snake gourd available in the US plus some easily available brown lentils to put together a wholesome and satisfying dish of Snake Gourd and Brown Lentils.

Nandita of Saffron Trail shows us a beautiful view of the inside of the snake gourd, then cooks it in typical Tamilian style, with moong dal, coconut and spices to make a tempting Snake Gourd Kootu.

Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine makes a Snake Gourd Curry that looks bright and colorful, with a medley of snake gourd, chana dal, spring onions and spices.

A Cook of Live To Cook thinks back to her childhood days and shares the recipe for her grandmother's Snake Gourd Stew, a spicy combination of snake gourd with toor dal.

Coming up next, we have another beloved vegetable, the Simla Mirch, the Hindi term for the stout bell pepper. Mirch is the Hindi term for pepper, so that makes sense, but Simla (or Shimla as it is now called) is a beautiful town in the hilly Northern state of Himachal Pradesh. Why does the pepper get its name from this place? I don't know! Here, Rinku of Cooking in Westchester uses the Simla Mirch to boost the color and nutrition of a simple dish of Simla Mirch Alu.

The next vegetable is that singular vegetable, the drumstick, called Shevgyachi Sheng in Marathi and Sektani Sing in Gujarati. Here are two saucy creations with this veggie...

TC of The Cookeruses drumsticks to make a dal that will spice up any meal- her Shevgyacha Shenganchi Amti has sweet and tangy notes from jaggery and tamarind.

Linda of Out Of The Garden flips open her old Parsi cookbook to come up with this unique Sektani Sing Na Saas: a sauce of drumstick pulp cooked with eggs, with a splash of vinegar to perk it up.

The final S vegetable is Saag, a general term for cooked greens (am I right, or am I completely off here?). Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope takes bunches of radishes and radish greens and cooks them with a simple tempering and a dash of chickpea flour, resulting in this tasty Saag Bhaji.

The next S word is a way of cooking all those wonderful vegetables: Stuffing them! When hollowed out vegetables are packed with a savory mixture, the result is a substantial meal that will leave you feeling just as stuffed as the vegetable itself! Here are three popular Indian ways to make stuffed veggies...

Sharmi of Neivedyam turns the bitter gourd into sweet success, providing a detailed step-by-step recipe for Stuffed Bitter Gourd packed with a spicy tomato-onion mixture.

Richa of As Dear As Salt makes Stuffed Peppers that would make a wonderfully spicy side-dish; plus the dish uses all pantry ingredients, and is steamed rather than fried.

Aarti of Aarti's Corner makes a scrumptious stuffing of coconut and peanuts to make her delicious dish of Stuffed Okra.

After looking at vegetables that are stuffed, here is an example of vegetables that are used as stuffing! Aarti of Aarti's Corner makes a spicy potato and peas mixture and uses it to stuff a triangular dough pouch, resulting in that prized, wildly popular, internationally known Indian snack, the Samosa!

The next S food is the Sabudana, also known as Sago pearls. These little balls are made by processing the sago palm. Although starchy and quite tasteless in and of itself, sabudana lends itself to the preparation of a variety of spicy snacks, such as these four dishes, and is often paired with boiled potato in the making of these snacks...

Tee of Bhaatukli makes a quick mixture of soaked sabudana and boiled potato, along with some peanut powder for added flavor, and fries a batch of Sabudana Wada, golden-brown and perfectly tempting.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart writes a hilarious account of the tradition of "fasting" and makes a "fast food" that is the secret reason why so many Maharashtrians remain enthusiastic about undertaking fasts: Sabudana Khichadi.

Mahek of Mahek's Kitchen uses a combination of sabudana and boiled potato, spiced to perfection, and makes little pancakes called Sabudana Thalipeth that would make the perfect tea-time treat.

Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels surprises us with an unusual recipe for Saboodana Chutney, a soothing duo of sabudana and yogurt.

We now come to some delightful S dishes from all over India. Going from North to South, we have...

...the Sindh region, now part of Pakistan. Sindhi cuisine is rich and sumptuous. Madhuli of My Foodcourt shared a well-known Sindhi specialty, Sindhi Sai Bhaji, a nutritious medley of greens, vegetables and lentils in a spicy sauce.

...the Western Indian state of Gujarat, the cuisine here is vegetarian heaven! Trupti of The Spice Who Loved Me specializes in Gujarati cuisine and gives us an authentic recipe for Sambharo, a crunchy dish that she aptly describes as a "warm salad" with an Indian-style dressing.

...the populous metropolis of Bombay, with its addiction to spicy snack food. It is also the birthplace of the most bizarre and creative "fusion cuisine". Swapna of Swad recreates one of these delights: Schezwan Dosa, where spicy Chinese-style vegetable noodles are packed into a dosa with incredible results.

...the Konkan coast, with swaying coconut palms and long stretches of beaches. Priyanka of Lajawaab showcases the coconut in this pretty pink Solkadhi, a medley of coconut milk and a special fruit called the sol or amsul.

...the Southern states, home to some of the most ancient cuisines in India. Manasi of A Cook At Heart makes a quintessential Southern Indian dish, a delicious combination of vegetables and lentils: Sambar.

Let's wrap up the round-up with three sweet and soothing delights. Not much by way of vegetables here, but we deserve a bite of dessert at this point!

Aarti of Aarti's Corner makes a silky smooth Sabudana Kheer by cooking sago pearls in milk.

Saju of Chachi's Kitchen cleverly combines Sooji (semolina), Saffron and Sultanas into a delightful bite of Seera.

Mahek of Love For Cooking teaches a clever dish to make with the sheera, or the semolina pudding shown in the preceding entry. She uses the sheera as a filling for whole wheat rotis, turning out a unique sweet bread hot off the griddle: Sanjoree, also known as Sheera Roti.

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S is for Spinach Amti: Green Leafy Vegetables

Last week, we looked at the humble root vegetables that are often taken for granted. This week, we do a 180 degree turn towards the super-stars of the vegetable world: the Green Leafy Vegetables. Popeye with his bulging biceps is just one example of the near-mythic properties that are attributed to green leafy vegetables! I prefer to be more pragmatic about the nutritional value of the leafy veggies. Yes, they are low in fat and high in calcium, iron and fiber. But so are a lot of other vegetables. I eat green leafy vegetables simply because they taste fabulous and are ever so versatile.

Some leafy vegetables like spinach seem to be popular all over the world and are usually available throughout the year. Others are specific to certain regions. In Farmers' markets, I always come across strange leafy vegetables that I have never heard of and have no idea how to cook. Leafy greens are often just plants growing wildly somewhere until someone discovers that they are edible and decided to either harvest them from the wild or to cultivate them. Some of them have the most irresistible names: lamb's quarters or fiddlehead ferns, anyone?

When one is able to buy a bunch of lush, verdant greens from the market, the trick is to use them up right away, before they wilt and languish into an unappetizing mess. This is the reason why I am always on the look-out for quick and simple everyday ways to cook greens. This time, I found a simple recipe for a greens-and-beans combination that makes for a nourishing everyday dish. It uses good ol' spinach, which I usually have on hand, and black-eyed peas, a pantry staple. It is cooked in the style of a Marathi amti, which is characterized by contrasting sweet and sour flavors from the addition of jaggery and tamarind, respectively. The addition of some coconut gives it a rich and creamy flavor.

Spinach Black-eyed Peas Amti

SpinachAmti
(Adapted from Lajawaab Curries by Sudha Maydev, makes about 4 servings)
Ingredients:
1 C dry black-eyed peas (lobia, chowli), soaked overnight
1 bunch fresh spinach (about 2 C, packed)
1 T tamarind paste
1/2 T jaggery (Indian unrefined brown sugar)
salt to taste
Tempering:
1 t oil
1 t mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
Coconut Paste:
1/3 C coconut (fresh/frozen)
2-3 green/ red chilies (fresh/frozen)
Method:
1. Cook the black-eyed peas in the pressure cooker until tender. Try not to overcook them.
2. Make the coconut paste: Combine the ingredients and grind together to a fine paste.
3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the rest of the tempering ingredients and saute until the garlic is aromatic and starting to brown.
4. Add the spinach and stir-fry until wilted.
5. Add the coconut paste and fry until fragrant.
6. Stir in the cooked black-eyed peas, tamarind and jaggery. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.

Variations
Try using different greens, or different beans for this dish.

Serving Suggestions
The first day, I served this with some Southern Indian Tomato Rice and really enjoyed this odd combination! This amti would be delicious with plain steamed rice, and is "sturdy" enough to be a good accompaniment to steamed brown rice. I ate the leftover amti with some warmed whole-wheat tortillas and pickle, and that was delicious too, so the amti would go well with rotis.

After all this talk of everyday food, I'm in the mood for some spicy snacks! Fellow bloggers have come up a array of tempting treats featuring green leafy vegetables:
Spicy Spirals from Indian Food Rocks,
Methi Malai Buns from Jugalbandi,
Gingery Spinach Kebabs from Sailu's Food,
Methi Muthia from Food For Thought,
Mint Coriander Chutney from Hooked on Heat,
Palak Puri from A Cook At Heart,
And for a stunning array of leafy recipes, check this out...
JFI:WBB Round-up of Green Leafy Vegetables from Mahanandi.

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables and Lentils
M is for Malai Kofta: Dumplings
N is for Nargisi Kebab: Vegetables and Eggs
O is for Onion Chutney: Vegetables in Chutneys
P is for Pattagobi Pachadi: Vegetables in Salads
Q is for Quick Carrot Pickles: Vegetables in Pickles
R is for Radish Paratha: Root Vegetables

22 comments:

  1. with so many greens in our yard right now, we're always looking for new recipes. yours has been bookmarked. thanks for a great roundup.

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  2. A nice roundup as usual and nice entry too. Viji

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  3. Spinach amti looks really delicious Nupur, and easy to make too, even better! Thanks for another great recipe *and* roundup! :)

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  4. amti looks yum! the jaggery-imli combination goes so well in the amties' :) this is surely a must try! thanks for this amazing recipe, nupur!

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  5. Bee, I bet any type of greens would be tasty here. Garden-fresh greens would be the much tastier than my store-bought spinach!

    Viji, thanks :)

    Linda, glad you like it! Your entry was so creative!

    Richa, so true...I am addicted to that sweet-sour flavor :)

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  6. To Asha, TC, Lydia and Kalyn...I just did something so stupid. I was moderating comments and chose all your comments and was about to hit "approve". Then the phone rang and I clicked hastily and accidentally clicked on "reject" and lost your comments and screamed out loud in desperation :( :( I am SO SORRY but I can't find a way to undo that moderation. Thanks for your comments and kind words, and I'm really sorry this happened!
    Also want to add that I notice blogger is swallowing some comments (including my comments on my own blog) so if anyone does not see their comment, please know I am not rejecting it, just that blogger sometimes has its glitches. I apologize for this!

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  7. I was hoping to post a Saandga and shengdana chutney recipe, but could not make it in time! SSpectacular Spinach post and S roundup!

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  8. Nupur,
    I love green leafy vegetables and I am definitely going to try your amti recipe.
    Great roundup.

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  9. the picture reminded me of aluchi bhaji....but this looks yummy too...
    btw which recipe did you use for tomato rice?

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  10. Nupur,
    SO three others thought of snake gourd with lentils, apart from me.... LOL, beats me how so many foodbloggers think alike! Have already posted for the T round up, shall be sending you soon...surprisingly things are fitting in, with super timing to your round up...have a wonderful surprise for the Z for you ;) Keep guessing

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  11. The Amti sounds flavourful. I generally think of spinach with yellow or green split peas but I like this combination with black-eyed peas.

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  12. I like amti, but there's something in the amti masala that gives me acidity. But I will make it without the amti masala :)

    So many recipes to look at and learn from!!

    Cheers

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  13. lovely recipes and a beautiful roundup. thanks a lot. discovered lot of new flavorful recipes too. amti sounds great.

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  14. Awesome roundup for S.Spinach chavli amti looks great with tomato rice.Thanks for sharing.Durga

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  15. Wonderful roundup. Bad that I missed it this time. The Amti looks awesome. Thanks for the recipe.

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  16. Awesome roundup, I like the spinach black eyed peas dish. I'm going to try that out.

    Thanks!
    Kanch

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  17. Dhana, Would love to see those recipes at some point! :)

    Suma, hope you get a chance to try it. It is easy and tasty!

    Supriya, Alu would go well here, but is so hard to find. For the tomato rice, I did not use a particular recipe...made it off the top of my head, but very similar to all the great tomato rice recipes that are out there in the blog world and elsewhere on the 'net.

    Nandita, how fascinating is it that all the lentils were different? I loved seeing that collection :) Can't wait to see your Z surprise :)

    Cynthia, this is the first time I tried black-eyed peas with beans too...but I guess all combos of greens and beans do end up quite tasty!

    Raaga, this "amti" does not use the traditional amti masala at all, so maybe it will be fine for you!

    Sharmi, thanks :)

    Durga, thanks for stopping by!

    Sowjanya, there is always next time. or after that. Or after that :)

    Kanchana, let me know if you do! :)

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  18. Sure I will. And will you please confirm receipt of my T entry?

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  19. wow!!! once again a very nice round up. its so resourceful, fun too and i keep learning new stuff every time.

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  20. Nupur, I think you lost my comment too (
    Anyway, i wanted to say, since I have not cooked much with lobia this would be a good try.Looks great with that rice

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  21. Nupur - what do you use to grind wet masalas? I suppose a coffee grinder is not the right tool for this...

    Lakshmi

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  22. Thanks for this recipe Nupur. I tried it & it tasted great :)
    I have blogged about it too.
    http://nsushma.blogspot.com/2010/09/palak-amti-spinach-black-eyed-peas.html

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