Curried Spinach & Cheese (Saag/Palak Paneer)

Its like creamed spinach, with a twist. We actually make a dairy-free version of it, and the whole family loves it. Believe it or not!

Story

One of the first solid foods my son ever ate was Palak Panner, an Indian dish of curried spinach with cheese. It was actually my meal that I had just sat down to eat. I would have never thought to offer it to an 8-month old. But Luke crawled up on my lap, took my spoon, and ate almost my entire dish. I was amazed. And I never let it go! I made sure he got curried spinach at least once a week, until he was old enough to realize he had been duped. But that day has never happened. Luke still loves this meal, 6 years later. But store-bought options are usually to spicy for him, and they all have dairy, which I can’t do. So I made up this dairy-free version, to which you can add paneer if you like (available at Indian supermarkets) or in a bind, slice up some string cheese (for the kiddos, that is!). Choose a mild garam masala, and tell the kids you’re adding cinnamon to their dinner. 🙂 I have no idea if this is even close to how they make it in India. But this version is healthy, tastes great by all accounts, and my kids eat it. That’s all that matters. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 (BPA free) can of organic tomatoes or 1 lb of fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp garam masala
3/4 can coconut milk (not light!)
16 oz of baby spinach (or other similar leafy green of your choice)
pinch of salt
4 oz paneer (optional)

Instructions

Heat coconut oil over medium heat, in a large saucepan. When melted, add the onion and sauté until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for another two to three minutes, until also softened.

Add the garam masala and fry until the mixture becomes sticky, about two minutes. Add the tomatoes and salt, and turn the heat to medium-high, until boiling. Then turn the heat back down to medium and let simmer for about five minutes, or longer if using fresh tomatoes. Add the coconut milk, and continue to simmer for another five minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings if necessary. Turn the heat to low.

Working in batches, loosely pack the spinach in a food processor. Pulse until just shredded. Don’t overpulse, as we aren’t tryng to make spinach soup. Empty the food processor bowl into a big bowl, and continue the pulsing process until all the spinach has been shredded.

Add the shredded spinach to the saucepan, stirring constantly, until well combined and heated through. Serve immediately.

You can add paneer at the end (optional), and serve with traditional rice and lentils (daal), or try my turmeric cauliflower “rice” with cashews and raisins for a very fulfilling paleo meal.