I have an excellent recipe for you, as well as a special treat for all of you Loki fans.
Over spring break, my husband and I took our high school junior on a 5-day whirlwind tour of 6 colleges in Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana. We had excellent vegan food, especially in Chicago (Karyn’s on Green just rocks!) but one meal stands out as an unexpected treat. We were driving through Indianapolis after touring our last college, on our way back to Chicago to catch a 9pm flight home, and stopped at an all-vegetarian Indian restaurant called Spice Nation.
We were just in time for the lunch buffet, where all the vegan dishes were helpfully labeled. I will be honest: We stuffed ourselves. Everything was so good, and it was a thrill to be able to eat at an Indian restaurant and not worry about butter or cream. I think all of us would agree that our favorite dish was the one that was put out last, a creamed spinach with chickpeas similar to Palak Paneer but without the cheese.
By the time the spinach dish was put out on the buffet, I was already so full that I could only have a small taste of it. Rich and creamy, it was hard to believe that it was vegan, but the staff assured us it truly was. I came home determined to replicate it at home. Of course, I had to be a little different, so I made my version with kale instead of spinach. But my family didn’t notice, and according to them, it’s as good as the original, which was definitely not low-fat.
I used a few raw cashews for creaminess, but other than that, this rich, flavorful curry contains no oil, not even to temper the spices. I also used soy milk, but you can make it completely soy-free by using rice, almond, hemp, or coconut milk. And, of course, it’s naturally gluten-free.
It was an instant family favorite both for its flavor and for how quick it is to prepare. Even using a bunch of kale that had to be washed, stemmed, and chopped, I was able to make this dish in under a half hour. If you use pre-chopped kale or spinach, you can make it even more quickly.
Creamy Curried Kale and Chickpeas
- 1 large onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger root minced, or 1 tsp. powdered ginger
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons garam masala see below
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 8 cups chopped kale 1 10-ounce bunch, about 6 ounces after stems removed, packed
- 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup unsweetened soymilk or other non-dairy milk
- 1/4 cup raw cashews
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast optional
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 15- ounce cans chickpeas drained and rinsed well
- salt to taste
Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to brown, 4-5 minutes, adding water by the tablespoon if needed to prevent sticking. Add the garlic, ginger, and cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining spices and cook for another minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning.
Reduce heat to medium. Stir in the kale and vegetable broth. Cover and cook until the kale is bright green and tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the kale is cooking, put the milk, cashews, nutritional yeast, and tomato paste in the blender and puree until smooth. When the kale is done, add it to the blender and blend until smooth.
Transfer blended mixture back to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Check seasonings and add more to taste. Stir in chickpeas and continue simmering about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste and serve over basmati rice.
You can use packaged garam masala, but I prefer to make my own:
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds (from green cardamom pods)
1 small cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Toast lightly in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant (be careful not to burn). Remove from heat, cool, and grind in a coffee grinder or spice mill. Use immediately or seal tightly and store in a dark place away from heat. Makes about 2 tablespoons.
Before our trip, I had to buy a new suitcase. It arrived from Amazon in a big box that Loki immediately decided was our gift to him. I taped his favorite toy to the top and threw some of his balls and stuffed animals inside, and whenever he starts running wild, knocking everything off the kitchen table or climbing up the drapes, I bring him over to his box. This is the result:
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