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Chicken Palak with Wheat Naan.
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Everyone knows spinach is quite the Olympian of vegetables. Stop anyone on the street and they’ll tell you” “The popeye vegetable? Oh yeah, everyone should have some..” Try telling that to a kid who is bent on skirting around the meal without ever touching a sliver of vegetable. I’ve been there…not as the kid but as the mother of the vegetably-challenged kid. I don’t try to reason anymore. I resort to "sneakery" and deceit. There are many ways to do it and sometimes I get caught. But not this dish. Even though, it all green…she eats it all up and then asks for some more. If you ask me, I think she has willingly suspended belief (or the suspension of disbelief ?) because it’s so irresistibly tasty.
So what’s this dish? It is none other than a north Indian favorite—Chicken Palak (some call it Palak Chicken). The star of this dish is spinach (hence Palak, meaning spinach) and the rest are just there as supporting roles—the spices and the meat—they’re just there for the applause. When I first had this dish at an Indian restaurant, I loved it right away. A good thing since this dish is nutritious and low in fat and calories. Now, that my daughter loves it as well, it's became quite a staple in my family. With time, I’ve put my own spin to make it more friendly to the needs of my family but the essentials remain quite the same.
I Made Some Adaptations
There are a number of key ingredients in a typical chicken palak dish. Spinach is indispensible. The spices used are important too. A purist would insist on making their own garam masala for this dish. Garam masala is a blend of various spices and it differs according to the dish or the preference of the cook. Typical spices include black and white peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and cardamom pods. The purpose of garam masala is to impart flavors and intensity to the dish. To make it easier for myself, I decided to use curry powder to substitute for garam masala since curry powder contains most of the spices mentioned and I can skip the task of blending the spices. Alternatively, you can add ground spices--just scoop and add.
Chicken Palak also employs some accompanying vegetables to enhace the flavor. I've seen a variety of vegetables used from tomatoes to fenugreek green to bitter gourd. I’ve found success with mint and cilantro. Some cooks use curd or heavy cream. I prefer yogurt.
These adaptations are not major but they reflect my preferences and still maintain the integrity of the dish.
- 1 bunch spinach, washed thoroughly and drained.
- 1 thumb of ginger, minced
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 to 3 sprigs of mint
- 2 to 3 sprigs of cilantro
- 3 small green chilies, (more if you prefer it spicer)
- 1 heaping tbs curry powder
- 1/4 cup of yogurt
- 2 pieces of chicken breasts, diced or cubed.
- salt, to taste
- Cayenne Pepper, (if desired, for more heat)
Note: You may also subsitute chicken for tofu or paneer, a delicious Indian cheese. Instead of letting it simmer like chicken, add tofu or paneer cubes towards the end of the cooking time, just before you dish it out. I've tried tofu and paneer cheese (dish is called Palak Paneer) and they taste just as delicious.
- Chop garlic and ginger until fine.
- Wash chicken and cut chicken into cubes or bite-sizes.
- Blend spinach, mint, cilantro and green chilies. Set aside.
- Add enough oil to coat pan.
- Once pan is heated up, add chopped garlic and ginger and sautee until it's fragrant.
- Add diced chicken and curry powder. Season with salt. Add cayenne peper if desired. Sautee chicken until well-coated.
- Add blended spinach, mint, cilantro and green chilies.
- Mix well and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add yogurt, mix well and adjust taste if needed. Dish it out once it boils.
- Serve warm with basmatic rice, roti paratha, Lavash bread, Naan or papadums.
|Serving size: 1 serving|
|Calories from Fat||36|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 4 g||6%|
|Saturated fat 3 g||15%|
|Unsaturated fat 3 g|
|Carbohydrates 11 g||4%|
|Fiber 3 g||12%|
|Protein 27 g||54%|
|Cholesterol 44 mg||15%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
Is Spinach Good for You?
Is spinach all that's hyped up to be? Mothers push it. Health experts recommend it. What's the take? Let's take a look at the nutritional facts of spinach, provided by the USDA (adapted). You be the judge.
Nutritional profile of 1 cup of spinach (30g)
Amounts Per serving
Calories from fat
Health Benefits of Spinach
As you can see, spinach has a lot going. Low in calories, high in nutrients and vitamins, spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods. Various studies reveal a number of health benefits associated with spinach:
- High in Antioxidants
According to Mayo clinic, spinach is one of the vegetables with the highest antioxidant content. The virtue of antioxidants cannot be over-stressed. It arrests cellular damage caused by free radicals. Various types of cancer, premature aging and cardiovascular diseases have been linked to oxidative effects of free radicals. Consuming foods with antioxidants help to reduce such risks.
- Rich in Carotenoids
Carotenoids belong to a group of phytonutrients that gives plants their brilliant colors. The characteristic dark green of spinach is due to the presence of beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin (all carotenoids) and they promote vision health by protecting against age-related macular degeneration and night blindness.
- Rich in nutrients
A quick glance at the nutritional profile of spinach reveals that spinach is high in calcium, potassium and vitamin K. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, these nutrients may reduce risks of osteoporosis.
- Rich in Folate
Folate (water-soluble vitamin B) is needed to produce and maintain new cells, make DNA and generate normal red blood cells, according to the National Institute of Health. No wonder doctors often advise pregnant women and growing children to ensure adequate intake of folate. In addition, folate also reduces levels of homocysteine, a chemical associated with heart disease. Including spinach in your diet is one way to increase folate intake.