Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spicy Stewed Potatoes and Spinach with Coconut Milk

Indian food is one of the cuisines I came to much later in life. I now live in a culinary utopia, but I grew up in an area where most of the people were only aware of Indian "culture" through Apu on The Simpsons. I was lucky to have parents who valued other cultures and taught me as much as they could about the worlds beyond my tiny hometown, but that still didn't change the fact that there wasn't anywhere to go out for curry and naan. Now that I'm cooking for myself, I find that Indian culinary tradition is one I go back to frequently, especially when I'm making vegetarian meals. This recipe combines hearty potatoes and gently cooked spinach with spicy chiles, fresh cilantro,and creamy coconut milk to create a filling dish that satisfies all of your taste buds. It is rather gentle with the traditional spices, using turmeric instead of the full suite of curry spices, and a nice way to gradually introduce novices to the lovely flavors of Indian cuisine. More adventurous palates or those better acquainted with Indian food may want to substitute the turmeric with curry powder, whose myriad ingredients are just as eagerly soaked up by the potatoes and spinach. Chicken, fish, or tofu would feel most at home next to this on your dinner plate, but it could be served over rice or quinoa for a hearty, starchy dinner.

Spicy Stewed Potatoes and Spinach with Coconut Milk
adapted from Eating Well
serves 4

1 pound Yukon Gold or red potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 dried red chiles, such as Thai, cayenne, chile de arbol, or guajillo, stemmed
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (or curry powder, to taste)
1/2 cup light coconut milk
8 ounces baby spinach

1. Place potatoes in a medium bowl; cover with cold water to prevent browning. Place chiles in a small heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set aside until they are reconstituted, about 15 minutes. Reserving the chile-soaking water, coarsely chop the chiles (do not seed).

2. Pile cilantro, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt and the chopped chiles in a mortar. Pound the ingredients to a pulpy mass with the pestle, using a spatula to contain the mixture in the center for a concentrated pounding. (Alternatively, mince the ingredients in a food processor.)

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, until the garlic is honey-brown and the chiles are pungent, 1 to 2 minutes. (Make sure to use adequate ventilation.) Drain the potatoes and add along with turmeric; cook, stirring to coat the potatoes with the yellow spice, about 30 seconds. Pour in the reserved chile-soaking water and scrape the pan to loosen any browned bits; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. When the potatoes are tender, pile the spinach leaves over them, add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cover and cook until the spinach is wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut milk mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve promptly.

1 comment:

  1. Yummy looking Dhaniya chicken when u get time, I love the coriander flavor as well. Pics are awesome..