Thursday, February 23, 2012

Palak Paneer

OK, so I realize that picture isn't all that appealing. I promise you, though, that this is one delicious dish. I also had a hard time calculating the cost because the difference in price between buying a lot of this stuff at somewhere like Safeway and an Indian grocery store is pretty staggering. I'm basing the amounts I came up with somewhere between what I paid and what lists for prices on spices and basmati rice. And this isn't really what I'd call a cheap meal by my standards, but it's significantly cheaper than in a restaurant and it's so damn good you should make it anyway. So...

Cost for this recipe: $11.78 Cost per serving: About $2.89

This is a recipe I've used a lot but I recently decided to experiment with what I thought might be missing. I think those things might have been asafotida and fenugreek. So you can really leave those out and it'll be fine, but I think they added a certain ... Indian-ness.


vegetable oil or ghee
1 large onion, chopped
2 cardamom seeds
1 stick of cinnamon
2-3 bay leaves
2 whole cloves
1 tsp minced garlic 
1 tsp grated ginger
1 small tomato, chopped
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 lb fresh spinach, chopped*
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp fenugreek leaves
1/2 tsp asafotida
1 cup cream (or half-and-half works)
1 tbsp tomato paste
fresh cilantro leaves
paneer ( about 1/3 of a block, cut into small cubes)


Heat oil or ghee in a saucepan and lightly brown the onion. Add 2 or 3 bay leaves 
cardamom, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cloves, ginger, garlic, sliced tomato and black pepper and saute for about a minute. 

Add spinach and cook until it turns dark green and reduces in volume.

Add salt, turmeric, coriander,  garam masala, fenugreek and asafotida (the asafotida technically needs to be tempered in oil over heat but rather than get out a new pan, I just cleared a side of the large pan and did it right there and then mixed it in. I think next time I might try tempering all the spices together in a separate pan).

Add cream, tomato paste, chopped cilantro and cubed paneer. Cook for another couple of minutes over high heat. 

Serve over rice.

*Don't bother spending extra money on baby spinach. It cooks down so much you can use the coarse, cheaper spinach and it'll be just fine. Also, to get the texture that palak paneer has in most restaurants, you can run the spinach through the food processor before you cook it. Mine is just so tiny it's never worth the effort.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tempeh Tacos with a Jicama Slaw

Cost for this recipe: $3.92. Cost per taco (because who am I to determine what's a serving of tacos? For me, it's four...) $ .39. Recipe makes about ten tacos.

I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, but I had an idea of what I wanted & started experimenting this afternoon. I've made a variation on this before, but I decided it needed chocolate this time. That seems like a safe guess in pretty much every circumstance.


1 pack of tempeh* (usually found near the tofu in grocery stores)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup water
1/4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1 jicama
2 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp lime juice
a few sprigs of cilantro

corn tortillas


Crumble the tempeh to a fairly fine texture into a saute pan and add the chili powder, cumin, garlic, oregano, salt, water and chocolate. Stir well & let it simmer over medium heat until the water has cooked away & you're left with something that looks like this:

Peel the jicama with a vegetable peeler. I forget every time I use jicama that it remains a bit fibrous slightly beyond the brownish skin. Don't be like me. Peel it about another 1/4 cm beyond the skin unless you want to be picking chewy things out of your slaw. Grate the jicama using the coarser side of a grater. I'm including a picture for size reference of the jicama I used because you might want to adjust the amount of mayo & lime juice accordingly. I just eyeballed it & kept tasting.

Add the mayonnaise, lime juice and finely chopped cilantro to the grated jicama & mix well.

Now, heat a small frying pan on medium high and brown your tortillas. You can use a bit of oil if you'd like them to crisp up slightly, but it's not necessary.

Spoon equal parts of the tempeh mixture and slaw into tortillas.

Ta daa! Tacos!

*A note on tempeh: It is made of fermented soybeans and often includes other grains. It comes in several varieties. If you're gluten-free, be sure to read the ingredients (not that you aren't already a slave to ingredient labels, I know) because the one I bought contained barley.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tomato-Chickpea Soup

Total cost- approx. $8.00. Cost per serving- approx. $1.60 
(Canned tomatoes & dried beans would bring the cost down even more. I used canned beans).

  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans, OR 2 16 oz cans, drained & rinsed (Bean cooking directions below)
  • 6 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 2 - 3 large carrots
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp spicy paprika
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp raw cane or turbinado sugar
  • 1 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp salt*
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil, or 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 Tbsp Braggs liquid aminos (or soy sauce/tamari)
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley or cilantro
How To Cook Garbanzo Beans (If using dried beans)

Sort and clean the dried beans. Soak the beans in hot water for four hours, or overnight in cold water. Drain and rinse. Place in medium saucepan, cover with cold unsalted water. Bring to boil uncovered, boil for ten minutes, skim the foam. Stove Top: Cover and simmer soaked beans for 2 hours. Pressure cooker: Soaked beans, 9 minutes at high pressure. Slow cooker or Crockpot (large size): After boiling and skimming the soaked beans, cook for 6 - 8 hours covered on low

Soup Directions: 

Dice tomatoes, carrots and celery. Add to beans and bean stock with bay leaves, basil, salt, tomato paste, tahini, and sugar. If using canned beans, drain and rinse, then add 4 cups water and 2 veggie cubesHeat olive oil on medium low. Peel, core and mince the garlic cloves, and brown in the oil. Stir the cumin and paprika into the oil and heat for five minutes. Add 1/2 cup hot water to the spice mixture to make a smooth paste, then transfer to the beans and veggies. Stovetop: Bring to boil, simmer covered for one hour. Crockpot: Turn heat to high, cook for 2 hours.  Add Braggs/tamari/soy sauce, fresh minced herb,  and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired (You desire. Trust me).

* I keep forgetting that the bouillon cubes I use are pretty salty & that, along with the tamari, I really didn't need the 1 tsp of salt. You may want to start with less & see what you think depending on the type of cube you use.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Channa Dal

Total cost: $2.43  Cost per serving: approx. 60 cents

This is a slightly modified version of a recipe I got from a guy named Manu back in my days (oh tribe, may you rest in peace). He is a follower of the Ayurvedic lifestyle & does not consume garlic or onions. At first I thought any recipe without garlic or onions had to be bland & awful, but I discovered that the substitute (asafotida) is one of the most amazing flavors on earth. Some of these ingredients will not be available outside of Indian grocery stores.


1 cup channa dal*
6 cups water
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp ghee or olive oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 seeded green chilis, chopped
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp hing/asafotida**
1 1/4 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated unsweetened coconut
chopped fresh cilantro

Bring the channa dal to a boil in 6 cups of water & cook for about 45 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat & add turmeric.

In Indian cuisine the idea of tempering spices in oil seems important, and it makes sense because everything gets a chance to "marry" before it's even added to the pot. This is especially important for the asafotida, as it is a resin & it needs to break down a bit over heat. Heat 2 tbsp ghee or oil in a pan & when hot add mustard seeds, chilis & fennel seeds. Cook for a minute or so & add ginger, asafotida & brown sugar. Mix for a minute & then pour into the dal. Add salt.
The tempered spices. 

In another small pan roast the grated coconut until browned & add to the dal.

The toasted coconut

 Garnish with cilantro & serve with basmati rice.

The channa dal begins as pretty much a soup, and any leftovers end up as more of a stew texture as the beans & coconut continue to absorb water. Both ways I put a scoop of rice underneath.


* In a pinch, you could substitute yellow split peas, but the texture will be different & the cooking time much less.

** Asafotida (also known as hing) is pretty much exclusively available at Indian stores. I've never seen it elsewhere. A note to the gluten-free people: Asafotida is available in two forms. There is a powdered form, which usually contains a bit of wheat flour, and a resin form, which does not. If you use the resin kind you will need to use 70% less.