Thursday, May 17, 2012

Saag Paneer

One cuisine I'm most intrigued about is Indian. The complex blend of spices, use of exotic ingredients and intense flavor and aroma of this cuisine has a spell on me... especially lately. It seems as though I just can't get enough of this delicious food! I'm often hesitant making Indian dishes at home because I know it's not truly authentic. But even then, my tolerance to heat and spice is most likely laughable to those used to the true preparation of the dishes. Nonetheless, this version of Palak Paneer turned out well for an Americanized version. Creamy, aromatic and with a beautiful color, this dish has a deep flavor similar to the ones I've had a Indian restaurants...

So what exactly is Palak Paneer? This is a dish that consists of spinach, spices and bite sized farmers cheese. It's the kind of dish that's comforting when served over rice or even with warm, buttery naan bread. However you enjoy it, it's certainly a common dish of Indian cuisine. Most might assume there would be a long list of spices to make various Indian dishes. This recipe calls for ingredients that are fairly common at most supermarkets and you may already have most in your pantry. Paneer cheese may be trickier and if that cheese isn't available, you can substitute it with ricotta cheese and stirring it in.

Palak Paneer
recipe adapted from AllRecipes

6 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
2 dried red chile peppers
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
3 pounds fresh spinach, torn
4 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves
8 ounces paneer cheese, cubed
coarse sea salt to taste

In a large saucepan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and saute garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of ginger, red chilies (optional ingredient) and onion until brown. Mix in the cumin, coriander, turmeric and Greek yogurt (add more or less to achieve desired creaminess). Add the spinach, handfuls at a time until it is cooked down, about 15 minutes total. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Pour spinach mixture into a blender or food processor, the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of ginger, and cilantro (add more or less according to taste). Blend for 15 to 30 seconds, or until the spinach is finely chopped. Pour back into the saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

In a medium frying pan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, and fry cheese until browned; drain and add to spinach. Cook for 10 minutes on low heat. Season with salt to taste.