Recipe Reboot: Kale Saag with Paneer and Tandoori Broccoli

Happy Friday Everyone! As you have probably all noticed, this blog recently received a massive facelift! The old background was starting to get a little boring, and I felt that a more user-friendly layout wouldn’t hurt in trying to gain more loyal followers for this site. So with that said, what better way to celebrate a makeover than with a revamped version of a down home Indian favorite, Saag. Roughly translating to “cooked down greens”, saag is traditionally made with mustard greens in the villages of the Punjab, where it is known as sarson ka saag. However, there is no reason why saag can’t be made with any bitter green of your choice. I find this advantageous in two ways. First, you can now buy the greens which look the freshest in the grocery store, and if you happen to be on a budget, then you can buy what is on sale. I would say that’s a win-win situation for everybody.

There is a distinct earthiness to most greens, including kale, which is what I chose for this recipe. To bring out that character most saag recipes include good amounts of ginger, turmeric, and most importantly fenugreek. Also known as methi in Hindi, fenugreek is one of the primary spices found in most commercial curry powders, and so it gives a kind of “curried” taste to the greens. Once the kale is cooked down with these spices and other aromatics, it is blended to create a smooth puree and lightly simmered with chunks of paneer, or Indian cottage cheese, to create one of India’s favorite comfort foods, popular amongst locals and foreigners alike.

In my opinion, the reboot in this recipe comes from the tandoori broccoli. When something is cooked in the tandoori style in India, it means that it is baked in a tandoor, a traditional egg-shaped clay oven which has created an entire cuisine in its own right. Broccoli is not a common ingredient in the Indian kitchen, but when it’s marinated in yogurt along with more ginger, turmeric, and fenugreek and then roasted in the oven, it could easily feature in any tandoori platter. The florets end up wonderfully sweet and tender, but they still have an earthy flavor and crunch that provides a wonderful textural contrast and flavor pairing with the saag. Putting it all together, this kale saag is not only a reinvented recipe. It’s got that nutritional boost that will be sure to propel you into the weekend.

Recipe: Kale Saag with Paneer and Tandoori Broccoli

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs kale leaves
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 green chili, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 12 oz paneer cheese, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes

For the Tandoori Broccoli

  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3/4 cup yogurt
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • pinch of salt

Method:

Make the Tandoori Broccoli: Preheat the oven 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, lime juice, turmeric, cayenne pepper, fenugreek leaves, grated ginger, and salt. Add the broccoli florets and toss to coat evenly. Allow the broccoli to marinate in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Roast the broccoli on sheet pan lined with parchment paper for about 15-20 minutes, till the broccoli is lightly charred. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.

Make the Saag: Heat some oil in a large pan over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin and fenugreek seeds and toast them in the oil for about a minute. Then add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, till it has softened and beginning to brown. Now add the ginger, garlic, and green chili and stir around for a minute, till everything begins to release its aromas. Throw in the turmeric and coriander and stir around to cook out this masala for about 5 minutes. Add a couple of splashes of water if you notice browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Then add the kale leaves in three batches and cook till the leaves have wilted, about 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Once the mixture has cooled, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend to create a smooth puree. Pour the puree back into the pan and season to taste with salt. Bring the saag to a simmer and then add the cubed paneer and the tandoori broccoli. Cook this mixture for about 5 minutes, just to warm up the paneer and the broccoli and incorporate them with the saag. Serve warm with naan breads or parathas.

Cooking Notes:

  • If you find that your saag is starting to dry up in the pan, add a couple of splashes of milk at the end to loosen it all up.
  • Tandoori Broccoli can also be an excellent side dish or appetizer on its own.
  • If you can’t find or don’t like kale, spinach, arugula, broccoli rabe, or swiss chard would also make a great saag. Feel free to blend several greens together as well. This is how it is commonly done in India.
  • For a vegan version of this recipe, replace the paneer with extra-firm tofu. I find that marinating the tofu in a little lime juice, ginger, and turmeric gives it an extra burst of flavor.
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