One of the breakout hit recipes from Priya and Ritu Krishna's new cookbook Indian-ish is Spinach and Feta Cooked Like Saag Paneer. With this recipe — based on the popular take-out dish saag paneer, made with paneer cheese cooked in a spinach "gravy" — Priya has made the Indian dish more accessible to American cooks by swapping out paneer cheese with feta, a common cheese easily found in Western grocery stores. We cooked the recipe ourselves and can confirm: It's completely delicious and accessible, even for someone who had never cooked an Indian dish before.
"I did a video for Bon Appetit in the test kitchen on (saag feta) — as soon as that video came out, that recipe just exploded," Priya says. "I think what’s kind of cool about that recipe is that the recipes that tend to go really viral are very photogenic, but this dish isn't. My Instagram feed of tagged photos just filled with photos of green gloop. That’s really cool."
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If you don't have some of the spices listed in the recipe — like green cardamom pod or asafetida — they are easily found at Dallas-area Indian groceries like Patel Brothers, Taaj Market or India Bazaar, or you can order them from Amazon.
Spinach and Feta Cooked Like Saag Paneer
Makes four servings
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 green cardamom pods, or ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (freshly ground is best)
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound fresh baby spinach (10 to 12 cups)
½ tablespoon fresh lime juice (from about a quarter of a lime), plus more if needed
1 small Indian green chile or serrano chile, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces feta cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes (a little over ½ cup)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon asafetida (optional but really great)
¼ teaspoon red chile powder
Instructions: In a large pan over medium heat, warm ¼ cup of ghee (or oil). Once the ghee has melted (or the oil begins to shimmer), add the coriander and cardamom and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until the seeds start to brown. Add the onion and cook until it is translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the spinach and cook until it is just wilted, 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the lime juice, green chile and salt. Let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend into a chunky paste. Return the spinach mixture to the same pan and set it over low heat. Stir in ½ cup water, then gently fold in the feta, being careful not to break up the cubes. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes more to soften the feta slightly and allow it to soak up come of the spinach sauce.
While the feta cooks, in a small pan or butter warmer over medium-high heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons ghee (or oil) for 1 minute. Add the cumin seeds. As soon as (emphasis on “as soon as” — you don’t want your cumin to burn!) the cumin seeds start to sputter and brown, about 1 minute max, remove the pan from the heat. Immediately add the asafetida (if using) and red chile powder.
Pour all of the ghee (or oil) mixture into the spinach and feta once that is done cooking.
Published with permission from "Indian-ish," now available via Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.