Eat all the greens
Carrot greens look downright vivacious in early summer. There’s just something enticing about a bunch of freshly-dug carrots with their crown of frizzy greens on top; it’s like a freak flag of freshness. The thing is, most of the time those greens go to waste. This time of year, tossing those carrot tops away before giving them a chance to reach their full potential seems cruel!
Yup, we’ve been here before. I didn’t want to go the pesto route, and we’ve already tried a tabouleh-style salad. My good friend Rick suggested cooking them saag paneer style. It was an early Saturday afternoon, the wind was picking up and clouds were banking to the west. May as well spend some time in the kitchen.
I’d already made Priya Krishna’s Saag Paneer (but with feta), so I went straight to that recipe. It’s quick, simple and gave me an excuse to try out my new (ok, refurbished) Vitamix.
I replaced the baby spinach with a pound of mixed “throw away” greens, including carrot tops and radish greens. Oh and some lacinato kale from a neighbor; there wasn’t enough to do much with it on its own, so I threw that into the mix too. Wash them all well, roughly chop, and you’re good to go.
Otherwise, I prepared this dish exactly as written, until the cheese. I didn’t have feta, but I did have an embarrassing amount of crumbled goat cheese (long story).
Instead of adding the cheese to the saag and cooking for a few minutes, I scattered about 1/3 cup on top of the greens as the last step.
Outcome? Delicious. The greens I used are more fibrous than baby spinach, so this had more body than a traditional saag paneer. It went perfectly with the flatbread I excavated from my freezer (acquisition date unknown).
And according to the World Carrot Museum (which I imagine has zero bias) “carrot greens are the most under-exploited class of greens despite their high nutritional value.”
So go ahead, exploit some carrot greens today.
No Saag, No Paneer
- 1/4 cup ghee or extra-virgin olive oil plus an add'l 2 tbsp
- 2 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 in piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 lb mixed "throw away" greens (carrot tops, radish greens or whatever you have on hand), roughly chopped
- 1 small jalapeno or serrano chile
- 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice
- 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp. asafetida (optional) This is a pungent, onion-y Indian seasoning that I happen to love, but that most people in the U.S. aren't familiar with. Its name should clue you in to how some feel about it…
- 1/4 tsp. red chile powder
- Heat ¼ cup ghee or oil in a large skillet. Cook coriander seeds and cardamom, stirring constantly, until starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Mix in garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add greens in batches, letting them wilt slightly before adding more. Cook until all of the greens are wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, add chile and lime juice; then season with salt. Allow to cool 5 minutes.
- Transfer spinach mixture to a blender (reserve skillet) and blend until a coarse paste forms, about a minute or so. Return greens to pan over low heat. Stir in ½ cup water, and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove pan from heat and scatter 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese on top.
- Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. ghee or oil in a small saucepan over medium-high, 1 minute. Add cumin seeds. As soon as cumin seeds start to pop, sputter, and brown, remove from heat, 1 minute tops. Immediately add asafetida (if using), and chili powder. Pour this mixture over the greens. Serve with flatbread or rice.