Monday, February 21, 2011
It was a verdant treat, nutritious with leafy spinach, nutty with almond paste and fragrant with spices. But for some weird, unfathomable reason I had never tried to veganize this, my once-signature dish, until this past weekend. I used vegan "chicken" and mushrooms instead of chicken, and the result was so good that I surprised myself.
The best part about freeing this recipe from animal products is that you make what is a fairly healthy dish even far more healthier, because vegan chicken substitutes are of course cholesterol-free and usually low-calorie. They also pack a ton of protein, just like meat. Each serving of this very hearty recipe has just 128 calories, more than 10 grams of protein, and more than 4 grams of dietary fiber.
The recipe is also really easy to put together-- I use frozen spinach and if you have some frozen vegan chicken substitute, like Gardein, on hand, you don't even need to run to the market for anything because you likely already have all the ingredients in the pantry. But the final dish is so impressive that everyone will assume you spent a day and a half slaving over it.
If you have one of those friends who's always telling you how tasty animals are, this is the perfect dish to get him or her to shut up for good. Paired with some of my raisin and nut basmati pilaf, it is -- without exaggeration-- to die for. Best part? There's no killing involved.
Spinach "Chicken" Curry
(Makes 8 servings)
1 10-oz package of frozen spinach, thawed in the microwave with a tablespoon of water. I just put the frozen block in a microwave-proof bowl with the water and zap it for five minutes. Puree in a blender and set aside.
1 package chicken substitute, like Gardein Scallopini, cut into cubes.
2 cups mushrooms (I used crimini but button or shiitake would be great too). Halve the mushrooms if they're small, and quarter if they're larger.
1 onion, minced
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 cup tomato puree
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp red chilli powder (cayenne for a big hit, paprika if you prefer your curries milder)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup of almonds, soaked in hot water for two hours, then pureed in a blender to a smooth paste with 1 cup water. (You can use pistachios which make this dish even more wonderful-- I didn't have any on hand this time. Cashews are also a good substitute)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
Juice of 1 lemon
Heat oil in a skillet. Add the onions and saute until brown spots start to appear, about five minutes over medium heat.
Add the ginger and garlic paste and saute another minute.
Add the tomato puree and the powdered spices and saute until the tomato darkens and starts to express oil from the sides.
Add the mushrooms and saute until they start to soften, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the vegan chicken chunks and saute another three to four minutes.
Add the spinach puree and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often to prevent any sticking, until the spinach darkens and all the water has evaporated.
Add the almond paste and 1/2 to 1 cup water (depending on how thick you want your curry) and bring to a boil.
Add lemon juice and salt to taste and turn off the heat. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve hot.
(Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories 128; Protein 10.5 grams; Dietary Fiber 4.1 grams; Total Fat: 5.8 grams (Saturated Fat 0.5 grams, Polyunsaturated Fat 1 gram; Monounsaturated Fat 3 grams); Carbohydrates 11.1 grams)