Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas
Saran's eye-opening technique here is to pat the tofu dry very briefly, rather than for 20 or 30 minutes. This keeps it moist and creamy inside, and the outside still gets browned. Look for ghee--clarified, toasted butter--at Indian or Asian markets.
Serves 6 (serving size: about 1/2 cup saag and 3 1/2 ounces tofu)
1. Briefly pat tofu dry with paper towels (about 5 seconds). Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of tofu to pan; cook 4 minutes or until golden, turning once. Drain tofu on paper towels. Repeat procedure with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining tofu.
2. Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add baby spinach and baby kale; cover and cook 4 minutes or until wilted, stirring occasionally. Drain well, reserving cooking liquid. Place spinach mixture in a blender or food processor; blend until very smooth, adding a tablespoon or two of the cooking liquid if needed.
3. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, and next 4 ingredients (through 3 chiles) in a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook 2 minutes or until cumin turns golden brown, stirring frequently.
4. Stir in ginger and 1/4 teaspoon asafetida, if desired; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove cloves and cardamom pods with a slotted spoon; discard. Stir in spinach mixture; swirl 1/4 cup cooking liquid in blender to extract puree clinging to the sides, and add to pan. Stir in salt. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes.
5. Place tofu on top of spinach mixture; cover and cook 5 minutes.
6. Combine ghee or oil with 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, and 3 chiles in a small skillet over medium-high heat; cook 2 minutes or until seeds turn golden brown, stirring frequently. Add 1/8 teaspoon asafetida, if desired, and ground red pepper. Carefully add 1 teaspoon water to keep ground red pepper from burning, and immediately pour oil mixture into spinach mixture. Stir.