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Something Different
Week of July 7, 2008
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Contact: Sarah Wally, (202) 328-7744

Giving Vegetables Tandoori Flavor

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

Tandoori chicken, a flavorful mix of yogurt, garam masala, pungent garlic and ginger, is a popular dish in Indian cuisine. Unfortunately for busy cooks, the dish can require four to six hours of marinating. For those who desire Tandoori flavor but can’t spare the necessary marinating time, Tandoori Spinach is a perfect choice.

The inspiration for this recipe came from two Indian dishes and a classic American steakhouse side dish. In addition to tandoori chicken, I was thinking of palak paneer – spinach with cubes of mild white cheese simmered with curry spices. The steakhouse muse: creamed spinach.

Letting the ingredients for these three dishes simmer in my head, I came upon the idea of sautéing spinach with curry powder. Although curry powder is not an ingredient that Indian cooks use, the seasoning blends together many of the aromatic spices they add individually to dishes, including turmeric, cinnamon and ginger. In addition to their incredible flavor, some of these spices may infer additional health benefits as well. In fact, new research is looking at a potential link between the spices featured in a traditional Indian diet and the fact that India has the lowest incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in the world.

To recreate the richness of creamed spinach – without the added saturated fat and calories of cream or butter – reach for yogurt. Used for marinating tandoori dishes, here it rounds out the flavor of the spices and keeps the spinach moist. Eating spinach prepared this way brings health benefits, too. The small amount of fat in the yogurt helps your body absorb the beta-carotene in the spinach.

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Tandoori Spinach

2 (10-ounce) bags or bunches fresh spinach
2 tsp. canola oil
1/2 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp. mild curry powder
1 (6-ounce) container reduced-fat (2%) Greek-style yogurt
1/2 tsp. salt
Ground black pepper, to taste

Separate spinach leaves from their tough stems. Rinse well in cold water. Shake off most but not all water clinging to leaves.

Set heavy, large skillet over medium-high heat. Pile moist spinach into pan, heaping generously. Using tongs, turn and mix spinach until it collapses, about 2 minutes. Keep adding spinach until it all fits into pan. When spinach is dark green and al dente, transfer to a colander. Rinse and wipe out pan, and set aside.

Let spinach cool. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible, a handful at a time. On cutting board, coarsely chop spinach.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallions and garlic and sauté until scallions are tender, 3-4 minutes. Mix in curry powder and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add spinach and stir to combine. Mix in yogurt, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, just until spinach is heated through, 3 minutes. Do not let it start to bubble. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot or warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 93 calories, 4 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 2 g carbohydrates,
8 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 435 mg sodium.

Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.


Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

We have contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, at www.aicr.org.

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