Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What's In a Name? Saag, How You Like It

Not much new happening here, it seems.  Bean continues to kick away in there, I continue to see my midwives every two weeks, and I actually took I's old baby clothes from the basement and pulled out the gender-neutral stuff, washed it, and separated it to give the "boy" clothes away.  (There's an interesting thought ... why is it that even some "gender neutral" clothes really feel "gendered" to me?)  The baby's room is mostly ready.  Two more hypnobirthing classes to go.  I'm trying not to think about what will happen at work.

The one thing we haven't been able to do, though, is settle on a name.  I keep joking that if the baby is born early, we're going to be stuck with "Baby Girl" as her name.  I'm not sure if it's my persistent hesitation to attach/believe that this is really going to happen, or the fact that I've had few really good female friends/role models in my life, or that I just don't like "girl" names ... but I think I'm the one causing the holdup.

Funny thing about names ... I don't know if any of you read Freakonomics, but I'm convinced that there's a connection between your given name and your lot in life.  And I suspect that it begins on the playground, where other children either decide that your name is normal, or rhymes with something funny, or just too weird.  Not that I have any hard data to back this up, of course. Anthropologists, sociologists, and economists among you, please weigh in.

We often eat things with funny names in our house, and I. enjoys turning the names over on his tongue.  (He, by the way, has very strong opinions about names.  Asked about the name Molly as a hypothetical baby name, he said, rolling his eyes disapprovingly, "but MOM, that's the name of the GOAT at my SCHOOL.")  This summer there was baingan bharta, and now, in the winter, there's saag.  I'm not sure why, but I love Indian food in cold, overcast weather.  Something to do, maybe, with memories of a cold and rainy day in England (which I know I've written about before) ... and a small, dingy, not-entirely-pleasant smelling room transformed by the aroma of takeaway curry in a styrofoam container.

This is one of our staples for the winter: the original recipe is a pressure-cooker recipe, but I have fear of exploding cookware, so we've modified it to work in the slow cooker, too.  The nice thing about the slow cooker version is that it simmers all day, and when you get home, your house smells like cinnamon and coriander and cardamom.  S. threw a batch together the other day, and I wanted to share it with all of you.  If you're vegetarian/vegan, the substitute is easy ... just brown up some firm tofu (which can stand in for paneer) and toss it in there when you'd toss in the meat.

Call it what you like; it's tasty comfort food.


2 20 oz. bags frozen chopped spinach
2 onions coarsely chopped
4" fresh ginger root -- coarsely chopped
14 cloves garlic -- peeled
1/4 c. vegetable oil
6 bay leaves
20 cardamon pods
16 whole cloves
Four 2" sticks of cinnamon
1 1/2 to 2 lb. stewing beef or boned lamb, cut in 1 1/2 inch cubes (or firm tofu, cubed and browned)
2 2/3 t. salt
2 T. ground coriander
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. cayenne pepper -- or to taste
1 t. garam masala

Microwave spinach until defrosted. Drain and squeeze out most of the water. Put onion, ginger, and garlic in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Slow cooker version: Saute spices in hot oil briefly (about a minute or two) and add onion, ginger, and garlic; saute for five minutes.  Add the spice/onion mixture to your slow cooker, and then add the meat/tofu and spinach.  Cook on high 4-6 hours or low 7-8 hours.  Add the garam masala at the end, and stir, letting some of the extra liquid boil off with the slow cooker on the "high" setting.

Pressure cooker version: Put oil in a pressure cooker and set over high heat. When oil is hot, put in bay leaves, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Stir and put in onion, ginger and garlic. Stir and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Put in meat, spinach, 2 cups water, salt. coriander , cumin and cayenne, Stir. Cover securing the pressure cooker lid and bing up to full pressure over high heat. Lower heat and cook at full pressure. The beef with take 20 minutes the lamb 15. Cool off the pressure cooker quickly with cool water and remove the lid. Put in garam masala and bring contents to boil again. Cook, uncovered, stirring gently over high heat for 5-7 minutes, or until sauce is reduced and thick.

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  1. Ok, so I know you have a sucky relationship with your mom, but keep in mind that YOU are wonderful. Now is your chance to be the kind of mom you wish you had. It will be wonderful to get a chance to break the crazy-mom cycle in your family lineage. That's how I keep myself focused on the positive. I have so many negative feelings about my mom that it makes me sick to think my daughter might some day feel the same about me. But I'm determined to be wonderful to my daughter so that she sees me as a stronger older woman role model who adores her.

    As for deciding on a name, you could always put a bunch of them on individual pieces of paper, pile them up on the floor and then see which one the kitty plays with the most. :)

  2. You really are amazing. But you already know that I think that about you. I am so glad to hear that all is going well with you and your little girl. You totally deserve to have a great pregnancy and I continue to keep you in my prayers.

    As far as a name, well, everyone seems to really like Fruit Loops. Perhaps your little girl could be Trix or fruity pebbles. ;)

  3. This is my favorite baby naming web page. Hope it helps lovely lady!


  4. i discovered your blog not long ago & love it. usually i read, but don't comment(annoying, i know- sorry!) & i know this blog is less about food then it is about your life, but i have to comment on this recipe. i'm making the slow cooker version (with venison) for dinner tonight, & it is DELICIOUS! thank you for sharing! & good luck settling on a baby name!


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