Thursday, January 2, 2014
Saag paneer (with homemade paneer)
Let me start of by saying how much I loved this meal. I loved eating it, and I loved making it. I loved the process of making the paneer cheese, which I will describe in detail below. This was certainly a time-consuming meal, but it was completely worth it when we sat down to eat. This was only my second homemade cheese (first was ricotta) and I must say that I'm looking forward to trying my hand at more cheeses in the not-too-distant future. Once the paneer was made, the rest of the dish was pretty simple to put together and all the flavors in it came together perfectly. I read quite a few paneer recipes and saag paneer recipes before I attempted this dish. The two I used most as reference were this one from Food Network and this one from Journey Kitchen. If you live near any specialty or Indian markets, you may be able to find paneer, but if you have a lazy Sunday afternoon, give it a try - it's a very rewarding process.
about 12 oz. paneer cheese (recipe below)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
coconut oil (or other cooking oil of your choice)
1 bag of frozen spinach (10-12 oz.), thawed
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, minced (remove seeds for less heat)
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground corainder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt
Basmati rice, for serving, optional
naan, for serving, optional
to make paneer:
8 cups whole milk
3-5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pour the milk in a large, wide pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring often so it doesn't burn. This takes a while, so just keep stirring.
When the milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and then add the lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring after each addition. When the milk solids separate (curds) and you see a greenish liquid (whey), you have added enough lemon juice.
Remove the pot from the heat. Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the entire pot into the colander. Gently rinse the cheese with cool water. Gather up the cheesecloth and squeeze out the whey. Tie the cheesecloth together using twine or string. Hang it on your faucet or cupboard and let the whey drip out for about 20 minutes.
Make sure the cheesecloth is tied relatively tightly. Place the cheese (still wrapped) onto a cutting board. Then top the cheese with something like another cutting board or large plate. Weight it down with a can of food or a pot so that the cheese flattens slightly (you want it to come out in a disc shape). Let sit for about 20 minutes. Then you can unwrap it from the cheesecloth and use it in the recipe or (my preference), wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, refrigerate, and use the next day (this helps it retain its shape and firmness better).
Next prepare the whole dish. Begin by cutting the paneer into about 1-inch chunks. In a medium bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil. Gently toss in the paneer until it is coated. Set aside.
Finely chop the thawed spinach. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the paneer and gently cook on each side until golden. Remove from the skillet and set aside (it will stain from the turmeric).
Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and chile to the pan. Stir well and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are a deep golden color, about 15 minutes. If the pan is dry, add a touch more oil.
Stir in the garam masala, coriander, and cumin. Add a couple spoons of water to keep the spices from burning. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the spinach along with a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup water. Stir well and let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn off the heat. Place the yogurt in a small dish and add a few spoons of the spinach mixture to the yogurt, stirring well to temper and help keep it from curdling. Then pour the yogurt mixture into the pan and stir well. Gently stir the paneer into the pan. Turn the heat back on low, cover, and cook until warmed through, about 5-6 minutes.
Serve hot with a side of Basmati rice or naan, if desired.
What was I cooking one year ago?: warm mushroom, chestnut, and bacon salad
Two years ago?: Moroccan stewed beef with prunes and apricots
Three?: pecan crusted chicken
4?: New Year's Day lentil soup with mint