Palak Paneer (Indian Curried Spinach)

 **Please note: all food posts are from my previous blog The Flexitarian Kitchen. I've kept them here because... well, they're good recipes. And it's late. And I'm tired of adjusting my settings. Think of these recipes as the free prize in the bottom of the cereal box!

 

A few days ago I posted a recipe for homemade paneer, a mild, white Indian cheese that you can make in your own kitchen with just milk and lemon juice, and a couple of hours to press the curds. Making paneer is an excellent excuse to catch up on your scrapbooking, or your journaling, or even all of those shows you DVR’d last week. I mean you have to hang around for a few hours, so why not? (better souls than I would take this opportunity to catch up on laundry, or organize the pantry, or even *gasp* dust the furniture. My own mother said it profoundly, though, when she told me years ago “I always felt like there were just a lot more interesting things I could be doing than housework.” Well said, Mom!)

Paneer. We were talking about paneer. Right.

Paneer is an excellent source of protein and calcium, and if you make it with low-fat milk it's also (go figure) low in fat. One of paneer's many charms is that, unlike other cheeses, it holds its shape at high temperatures and doesn't melt. This makes it perfect for sauteing, grilling, frying, and childhood blowtorch experiments.

Not really. Please do not let your children play with blowtorches. I mean this.

If you don't have the time or inclination to make your own paneer, and if it's not available in your local Shop & Rob, you can substitute another non-melty cheese, such as Mexican Queso Fresco or Panela. You can even use large curd cottage cheese instead, in which case you'd skip the frying step, and add it at the very end, also omitting the yogurt. It's hardly authentic that way, but it's actually very good.

So here’s the backstory:

A couple of years ago my oldest daughter and I became nearly rabid in our obsession to recreate the Palak Paneer (Indian Curried Spinach) that they serve at our local Indian eatery. We tried a dozen recipes, but none of them were right. We were forced to go back to the restaurant many, many times, eating possibly the equivalent of our own bodies' weights in Palak Paneer over an eighteen-month period. It was tough. We tinkered with so many versions in our own kitchen that the rest of the family now turns a little green when this comes up on the menu. But in the end, we nearly succeeded in duplicating it.

Palak, by the way, is Hindi for “spinach.” If this recipe is made with other miscellaneous mixed greens it's called “Sag Paneer.” Don't let the lengthy list of ingredients fool you: this recipe is as cheap and easy as a Baytown call girl.

Was that in bad taste? That was probably in bad taste. Please don't tell my mother I said it.

Now on with the show!

Palak Paneer

serves 4 – 6

Here is what you will need:

    • 4 Tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
    • 12 oz paneer, or other non-melting white cheese, cubed
    • 1/3 jalapeno chile, finely minced
    • 2 tsp minced, fresh garlic
    • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or from a jar)
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp coriander
    • 2 Tbsp yellow curry powder
    • 1/4 C fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1 C water
    • 2 10 oz boxes frozen chopped spinach, drained
    • 3/4 C heavy cream
    • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt, or to taste
    • 8 oz plain yogurt

 

And here is what it looks like:

051

 

Here is how it goes:

In a large, deep-sided saucepan melt the ghee or vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the paneer cubes and fry them for about one minute, without turning. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. I blot mine, to remove as much oil as possible.

053

Reduce the pan (and the oil remaining in it) to medium heat. Add the minced jalapeno, and saute until slightly softened. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute. 

Now toss in the 3 C’s: cumin, coriander, and curry powder and stir for another minute. Add the cilantro. Mm... smell that?

Look at this palette:

DSCN0143

Don’t you just love herbs and spices? They’re so pretty!

Now add 1 Cup of water, and lower the heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes. 

Add the spinach. Simmer for another 15 minutes. There is a time and a place for crunchy spinach, and this, my friends, is not that time. Add the cream, and heat through. Taste for salt. Add the yogurt and heat through gently. Here is what it should look like at this point:

DSCN0146

It’s a dark and gloomy day here in Central Texas. That’s probably why this picture is dark. Either the sun needs to come out, or I need to invest in a light box. The change in weather is a cheaper option, so I vote for that.

Anyway. Remove from the heat and stir in the paneer cubes, like this:

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Serve with naan bread and Basmati Rice.

This would be really good as a side dish with the Flexitarian Chicken (or not) Tikka Masala that I posted in December.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

Follow me at  http://theflexitariancooks.blogspot.com/

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