Saag Paneer – Indian creamed spinach

My daughter, Anna, and I decided to give up meat this spring for Lent. Going meatless for a month and a half is not really that big of a deprivation, but it did challenge me to rethink my standard meat-and-two sides family dinners. Even though we have many meatless meals during a typical week, I quickly ran through my usual veggie dinner ideas. I was soon digging through my old vegetarian cookbooks looking for dinner inspiration.

A recent dinner out at Decatur’s newest Indian street food place, Chai Pani, gave me a needed push back to Indian food. Because large portions of their population do not eat meat, India has one of the most varied and flavorful meatless cuisines in the world. One of my all-time favorite Indian dishes is saag paneer, which is a traditional, mildly spiced, creamed spinach, served with fried chunks of paneer, an unaged, Indian farmer cheese. It’s very healthy AND my kids love it. I would call that a win-win.

Here is how I made it at home…

Continue reading »

My Bánh Mì obsession

Okay, maybe it’s not really an obsession, but there is not much else that will make me drive 10 miles of crosstown Atlanta traffic for lunch. Bánh mì is the Vietnamese equivalent of a sub sandwich. Owing to the French Colonial influence in Indochina, the Vietnamese quickly adapted the baguette to deliver some very local flavors – grilled pork or chicken, pork pate, pickled daikon radish and carrots, mayo, fresh basil, fresh mint, cilantro and chili peppers. If you’ve had one, you know that a bánh mì is like an amazing salad sitting on top of a grilled meat-filled sub roll. The taste is so fresh and delicious … and they’re only a couple of bucks each! 

My friends know that I love these sandwiches and will seek them out in strip malls all up and down Buford Highway, the center of our culinary and cultural melting pot here in Atlanta. I often get texts in the middle of the day from friends asking “Where was that Vietnamese sandwich place you were talking about again?” There are a lot of little places where you can get great bánh mì, but my two favorites are Lee’s Bakery and Quoc Huong Banh Mi. You can do a sit-down lunch at either of these places, with more selections of traditional Vietnamese food such as pho noodle bowls, but they are great for take-out. I just wish that they were a little closer to my house.

Maybe because most weeks I’m too lazy to drive over to Buford Highway, I’ve started making bánh mi at home. Once you gather the ingredients, they’re actually quite easy to make. The key is getting the fresh veg and a good crusty baguette as your sandwich base. A quick trip to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market works for both.

Vietnamese Pork Spice Continue reading »