The fall share is full of nutrient-rich greens: spinach, kale, bok choy, braising mix, lettuce, mustard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, collard greens, etc. But do you ever get to the end of the week and realize you still have a crisper full of greens—with another box of greens on the way? It happens to all of us, even the farmers!
Well, Native Son Farm employee Tim Robb shared with me his secret for using up a lot of greens in a hurry. He calls it “Get-Rid-of-Your Greens Saag.” Saag simply means “greens” in Hindi, and, although this traditional Indian dish is often made with spinach, it can be made with just about any dark leafy greens.
Robb suggests any mixture of spinach, kale, chard, braising mix, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, and beet greens. Personally, I would be sparing with the mustard greens and avoid radish greens entirely in this dish because I find they are too sharp and overpowering for the saag’s subtle flavors.
And while you’re at it, make the paneer—the fresh, white, unsalted cheese—that traditionally accompanies saag. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of cheesemaking! This fool-proof cheese takes at most 20 minutes, and all you need are 2 liters of whole milk, some distilled white vinegar, and a colander and cheese cloth.
Saag paneer can be a meal all by itself, but I like to serve mine alongside supermarket naan and a homemade chicken curry.
1 cup broth
1 3/4 pounds fresh greens, washed, trimmed of stems, and coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
1 onion, chopped fine
1 green chili
1 large tomato, deseeded and chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves (optional; this can be hard to find in Mississippi)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted *
2 teaspoons garam masala**
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small patty of paneer, cut into half-inch cubes***
Bring the cup of broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the chopped greens, chili, and fenugreek leaves (if available). Cover and cook gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent leaves from burning on the sides.
Mash the greens with a potato masher or immersion blender until you have a coarse puree.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat about 2-3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and stir until it begins to brown. Then add the garlic and ginger, and cook for another 2 minutes. Next reduce the heat to low, add the tomato and cook for another 8 minutes.
Combine the tomato mixture and the spinach mixture in the trying pan, and stir in the seasonings: the garam masala, turmeric, roasted cumin seeds, and salt, and cook gently for another 5 minutes. Continue to mash and blend the greens as they cook.
Finally, add the cubed paneer, stir gently, and cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.
Other great methods for making Saag:
*How to Roast Cumin Seeds
Using a small cast-iron skillet, roast the cumin seeds over medium heat for a few minutes until the seeds are a few shades darker and smell roasted, taking care not to burn.
**How to Make Garam Masala
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
***How to Make Paneer
2 quarts (about 2 liters) whole milk
3-4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
Put milk in a large, heavy pot and set over medium heat.
Meanwhile, place a colander in the sink and line with a double-layer of clean cheesecloth at least 24 inches square.
When the milk begins to boil, turn it down low. Add 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar and stir.
The milk should begin to curdle, with the runny gray-green whey separating from the white milk curds. If not, add another tablespoon or two of vinegar.
Pour the pot of milk into the cloth-lined colander. Allow the whey to run through the cheesecloth, until only the warm curds remain. Gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and twist into a ball, gently squeezing out the remaining whey.
Return the cheesecloth full of curds to the colander set in the sink, then place a heavy board or plate topped with heavy bowls on top of the cheese cloth and leave it there for 5 minutes. This will squeeze the last drops of whey from the cheese.
The paneer is ready! Unwrap, cut into half-inch cubes and serve with your saag. Keeps for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, but it’s best used right away.