How many people love Indian food? I know I go through fits where I can’t get enough. The delicate flavors matched with spice and fresh vegetables and superbly seasoned meat. Fantastic.
There’s one type of dish that always attracts my attention (whether on the buffet or the menu… yeah, I love an Indian buffet, whatever) and that is Paneer. Paneer is a sort of cottage cheese that’s simple, quick, salty, and gooey. It is usually found in cubes and can (allegedly) be found pre-made at the grocery. I made it fresh this time because I’ve always wanted to make cheese and the grocery didn’t have it. I think I will return to this treat again, maybe get a little more adventurous and make more complicated cheeses.
Saag paneer is a mainstay made with spinach and spices that make for a smooth dish that would almost fit in well on a country buffet. In fact, instead of traditional fenugreek leaves or celery leaves, I threw in some collards. They served mainly to fill out the spinach, but it is fun to know they are there.
All told this was a nice spicy something different for a meatless Monday that I know you will enjoy!
2 bunches spinach, chopped
1 bunch baby collards
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coridander
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 gallon whole milk (non-uht)
Juice of one lemon
1 tbsp vinegar
salt to taste
Begin by heating the milk in a large pan. Use a thermometer to make sure you do not overheat. The milk should come to a simmer around 200 degrees and get a little frothy. Remove from heat and add the juice and vinegar. It will begin to curdle right away. Let it sit 10 minutes. Stir to make sure the curds fully separate. Using a colander and cheesecloth, strain the mixture. The curds will stay in the cloth. Lift the curds with the cloth and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Open the cloth pouch and add salt to taste. Wrap again and place on a plate and shape into a loose square. Top with another plate and an addition weight (can, mixing bowl) and sit for 15 minutes minimum. The longer it sits, the denser the cheese will become. If you make ahead you can refrigerate for an even denser cheese.
While the cheese is setting, chop the spinach and collards. Heat a pan with olive oil and add the greens. Pour in about 1/2 cup of water and cover. Cook about 4 minutes and strain. Pulse about 5 good times in a blender or food processor.
In the original pan, heat some oilve oil and add the onion. Cook a few minutes and then add the garlic, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, salt and pepper. Let it simmer for about five minutes. Add the cayenne.
Cut the paneer into cubes. In a separate pan, heat some canola oil and add the cubes. Roll then over a few times to brown slightly.
Then insert into the spice mix.
Finally, add the greens to the pan and stir. Add the cream and cover for 10 minutes or so. Serve with naan or rice.
Easy, flavorful, fresh Indian food at home. Happy Monday!