Friday, May 15, 2015

Oil-free Swiss Chard Saag and Roti bread

Saag, which is typically a well-cooked blend of spinach and other greens, has always been one of my favorite Indian dishes. My good friend Abby Bean will attest that I had trouble sharing the dish when we ordered it together last year after the Ivy-League Vegan Conference. It was also a must-get dish when I went to a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Dubai.

Until recently, I always had trouble recreating it without oil. That said, I’m pretty sure this recipe not only significantly increases the nutrition profile of the classic dish, but it also has an out-of-this world taste!

A few nights ago, after my daily four hour-long Spanish class, while M was working a 24-hour shift, I decided to surprise her with this as it is one of her favorite recipes of mine.

The following night we had a classic Indian sampling. I made the Saag, along with my lentil dal, and a simple cauliflower and potato aloo gobi.

Because I was making a few dishes, I left the rice out of the dal recipe, making it a more classic red dal. Instead, I cooked a large bowl of brown rice with cumin seeds, two bayleafs, a pinch of salt, and a well-chopped carrot.

M and I also decided to try a simple, whole-wheat roti bread, which brought the entire dish together and gave it a more authentic Indian feel.

This dish uses Swiss chard instead of the more classic spinach, but I’ve also used kale prior to moving Buenos Aires. Swiss chard is not only high in nitrates, but it may also help prevent your skin from wrinkling, as a paper published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition observed that those with the highest green leafy vegetable consumption tended to have the fewest wrinkles... So eat away!

The dish can also stand alone and is a delicious and nutrition-packed dinner when served with bread or on top of rice. 

Swiss Chard Saag
Serves 4

½ bunch swiss chard – stemmed and roughly chopped
1 large onion – chopped
1” chunk of fresh ginger - chopped
3-4 cloves garlic - chopped
1 cup plant-based milk
½ cup broth or water
¼ cup cooked chickpeas or 1 handful cashews
2 tablepsoons tomato paste
3-4 taplespoons nutrition yeast
1 teaspoon cumin (seeds or powder) - toasted
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garma masla
A pinch of chili seeds or cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
½ cup cooked split green peas (optional)

To begin, dry sauté the chopped onion. After a few minutes, add the garlic, ginger and cumin. Cook for a few more minutes on medium heat before adding the swiss chard. Slowly add a few tablespoons of water or broth as needed to keep the cumin from sticking. After 5 minutes, the swiss chard should begin to soften and become bright green. Remove from heat and let cool.

Once the sautéed greens are cool enough, combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor. A hand-held blender also works well. Blend well.

This is a dish that you will want to test the spices as you cook and adjust accordingly. If you are serving this dish on it’s own, consider adding a half cup of cooked green peas to the dish.

Whole Wheat Roti Bread (Chapatis)
Roughly makes 10 pieces

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup of warm water
½ teaspoon salt

While this bread is very simple to make it does take a little time for it to set so plan accordingly and try and start the bread at least one hour before you plan on eating.

Most roti recipes call for a tablespoon of oil, but as you’ll see, it’s completely unnecessary for the recipe.

Simply put the flour into a large bowl with the salt. Then slowly pour the warm water onto the flour. Knead the flour until it becomes a sticky dough.

Form the dough into a ball and cover the dough and let it sit for at least 1 hour although 2 hours is preferable.

Using your hands, pull about the amount of a walnut (in the shell) from the dough and flatten it until very thin.

Place the flattened dough onto a hot pan and cook until the side starts to crisp and puff up. Flip over and repeat.

Hope you enjoy these dishes.

M.B. Purba, et. al. “Skin Wrinking: Can food make a Difference?” Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Feb. 2001 71-80.

Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Contaminants in Food. Nitrate in Vegetables. The EFSA Journal 2008 1-79.

As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.


  1. loved how simple the roti is!!! Also your dal is great!

  2. It's a nice blog so much informative content are here.

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