Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Saag Paneer (Spinach with Indian Cheese)

This saag paneer is a little different from the ones I've had in restaurants (the paneer cubes aren't usually spiced and the dish tends to be saucier). Of course if you want, you can always add cream or coconut milk to loosen it up. I hope it doesn't seem like I'm down on this particular recipe though, because I liked it. I just want you to know it might not be exactly the same experience. But this went fast at my house.

Yield: 4 servings

1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 oz. paneer (Indian cheese), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (16 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large green serrano chile, finely chopped (seeds removed if you don't like it too spicy)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred until smooth

1.      In a large bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons oil. Gently, drop in the cubes of paneer and gently toss, taking care not to break the cubes if you're using the homemade kind. Let the cubes marinate while you get the rest of your ingredients together and prepped.
2.      Puree the thawed spinach in a food processor until smooth (or chop very finely with a knife).
3.      Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the paneer as the pan warms. In a couple of minutes give the pan a toss; each piece of paneer should be browned on one side. Fry another minute or so, and then remove the paneer from the pan onto a plate.
4.      Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to the pan. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chile. Now here's the important part: saute the mixture until it's evenly toffee-coloured, which should take about 15 minutes. Don't skip this step - this is the foundation of the dish! If you feel like the mixture is drying out and burning, add a couple of tablespoons of water.
5.      Add the garam masala, coriander and cumin. If you haven't already, sprinkle a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook, stirring often, until the raw scent of the spices cook out, and it all smells a bit more melodious, 3 to 5 minutes.
6.      Add the spinach and stir well, incorporating the spiced onion mixture into the spinach. Add a little salt and 1/2 cup water; stir and cook about 5 minutes with the lid off.
7.      Turn the heat off. Add the yogurt, a little at a time to keep it from curdling. Once the yogurt is well mixed into the spinach, add the paneer. Turn the heat back on, cover and cook until everything is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve.

from Aarti Sequeira
spices and oil
folding in the homemade paneer cubes
paneer cubes marinating
pureed spinach
browning the paneer
onion, garlic, ginger and chile
adding spices
adding spinach
adding yogurt
adding paneer
saag paneer

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