Afghan Spinach with Dill and Cilantro
This is the sort of dish to cook quietly in your kitchen, spoon into a container, and hide in the back of the fridge so you don’t have to share. Pull it out for lunch or a late-night snack when nobody is looking.
More likely, it’s one you’ll make for your family, risking the fact that your kids may not love it. Mine ate it, one had seconds, nobody complained. But let’s be honest, nobody, except me, tucked in like it was a bubbling crock of mac and cheese.
It is spinach after all.
Seriously good spinach. And compared to other spinach dishes that rest on the laurels of rich accompaniments like cream, butter, bacon, and cheese, this one relies on herbs and spices along with slow cooking to make it the best cooked spinach I know. It’s served with Greek yogurt along with warm pita or naan bread to help scoop the goods from plate to mouth.
The recipe, officially called Sabzi, comes from my friend Humaira, who grew up eating it in her native Afghanistan. It’s traditionally served alongside other vegetable dishes, rice, and meat curries. I usually make it as a side dish to a roast chicken or grilled kebabs.
This time around, though, I made it as a center-of-the-plate dish on the Sunday after Thanksgiving when we needed a household-wide detox. A big ‘old mess of spinach seemed just the thing.
The following day, realizing I hadn’t had my fill, I made a second batch, just for me, to store in the back of the fridge and eat when nobody was looking.
Use frozen, chopped leaf spinach that's sold in a bag not compressed in a box like a big spinach popsicle. If organic is available, that's a better option since conventionally grown spinach is notably high in pesticide residues.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 bunches green onions (about 14 onions), chopped (use entire onion, white and green parts)
- 2 pounds frozen, chopped spinach (not defrosted)
- 1 tablespoon dried dill
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 to 3 dashes ground cayenne
- ¼ cup water, plus more if needed
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- Greek yogurt and pita or naan bread for serving
- In a large deep sauté pan or pot heat the oil on medium-high and saute the onions until tender and wilted, about 6 minutes. Drop the heat to medium, add the frozen spinach, dill, coriander, cayenne pepper, and water, and stir. Cook the spinach for 20 minutes, stirring regularly. If the pan dries out, add more water, a tablespoon or 2 at a time. Add the cilantro, black pepper, salt, and lemon juice. Stir and continue to cook another 10 minutes until the spinach is dark and the texture is sort of creamy.
- Serve Sabzi in a bowl with yogurt and warm pita or naan bread on the side.
Adapted from a recipe for Sabzi by Humaira Ghilzai of Afghan Culture Unveiled