(Blog entry posted May 13, 2009)
Since the early 70s when I used to cook for Yogi Bhajan, I've developed a reputation for being a great cook. I've written two vegetarian cookbooks, columns in Beads of Truth and Aquarian Times magazines, as well as published articles on Healthworld Online. In the late 90s through early 00s I ran a catering company in Los Angeles called Yogi Eats, and I've cooked so many meals for large numbers of people (the most about 1200) it's hard to count them. At some point (about the time I burned out on the physical labor of cooking large amounts of 10 different dishes every week for five years with Yogi Eats) the energy shifted and I now have little interest in cooking anything more involved than sautéed or steamed vegetables with some quinoa on the side. Once in a while I'll get inspired and surprise my husband with an entire fabulous meal. I didn't make a fabulous meal last night, but I did make some fabulous saag, which is one of my all time most favoritest foods in the world. So, I am going to share that recipe right here, just as I made it last night. If you would like to try some Punjab Soul Food (the equivalent of greens and grits), try saag with makhi di roti (spiced pureed mustard greens with corn chapatis). Here's how to make the saag. We won't tackle the corn chapatis here, so try serving your saag with some fresh corn bread or corn tortillas.
Siri Ved's Blog Saag
Yield: 4-6 servings Ingredients:
• 2 nice big bunches fresh mustard greens, rinsed well and coarsely chopped (it will be pureed later, so no need to chop finely)
• 2-3 inches of fresh gingerroot, peeled and cut in small chunks
• 5-6 cloves garlic, whole and peeled
• 1/2 cup ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil (I always try to use ghee for best flavor)
• 2 medium onions, sliced/chopped in narrow short strips
• 1 rounded tsp. turmeric
• 1/2 tsp. cayenne (or less, to taste)
• 1 rounded tsp. cumin seeds
• 1 tsp. freshly ground coriander seeds
• 1-2 medium tomatoes. blanched, peeled, and chopped (or a cup or so of unsalted, chopped canned tomatoes, which is what I had on hand last night)
• salt to taste
1. Put about 2" of water in a stock pot and bring to boil. Add the chopped greens. Then peel and chop the ginger and add the ginger. Then peel the garlic cloves and add them too. Let these boil/simmer together, uncovered, while you prepare the following:
2. Heat ghee/oil in a 12"-or-larger iron skillet or other heavy fry pan.
3. Add onions and fry on high heat, stirring occasionally to evenly sizzle.
4. When onions are starting to brown (after about 10 minutes), make a little pool in the middle. If necessary, put a teaspoon or two of ghee in the middle so there is a small pool of hot ghee/oil.
5. Add the turmeric and cayenne to the center and let them sizzle for about 30 seconds. Then stir in with the onions.
6. Add other spices and continue to cook on medium-high heat, stirring as needed.
7. By now the greens should be cooking down. Pour off some of the broth into the onions and keep cooking the onions in the pan and keep cooking the greens in the pot.
8. When the broth has cooked out of the onions, add the chopped tomatoes. Stir well and keep cooking on medium-high heat, stirring now and then to prevent scorching and keep even cooking. You will cook this "masala" (mixture) until it is very well done and becomes unified, pulling away from the edges of the pan. If you still have a lot of broth in the greens pot, add some more broth to the onions and cook them some more, cooking down until thick and pulling away from the sides. (Last night, I had put way too much water in for the greens. I didn't want to just pour it off and lose all that flavor, so I kept adding it to the onions and cooked them a really long time. Cooking a masala a long time is really the key to outrageous flavor in Indian cooking).
9. When the masala is done and the greens are very done (they should cook at least 45 minutes) remove them both from the heat.
10. Drain any remaining broth from the greens. Put it in your favorite mug.
11. Transfer drained greens & ginger into food processor bowl and process for about 1 minute until pureed.
12. Add the pureed mixture to the masala (you might need a larger pan). You can cook it a little longer to cook out extra water (ideally it is thick and rich, not soupy at all). Check taste for salt.
13. The saag is done.
14. Celebrate by drinking the mug of broth (which is delicious).
Traditionally saag is served with makhi di roti. I suggest also or instead serving it with steamed beets and quinoa or cornbread. Let me know how it turns out!
Siri Ved Kaur has been a part of the 3HO/Sikh Dharma community in Los Angeles since 1971, when she served as Yogi Bhajan’s personal cook for several years. She has authored two cookbooks (Conscious Cookery, 1978 and From Vegetables with Love, 1989) and written numerous columns for Beads of Truth, Aquarian Times, Yogamint, and Healthworld Online. Mother of three grown daughters, she now resides in Bakersfield, California with her husband, Gurujodha Singh.