Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saag Paneer

I've been so conflicted about posting this recipe. On one hand, I was excited to try something new, make my own fresh cheese (!! I know, right??), and experiment with Indian flavors. On the other hand, during this process I dirtied waaaayyy too many dishes for my liking, had to wait 2 hours while the cheese drained and pressed, and thought the overall end result tasted only okay (not great).

Saag is Indian for sauteed and blended greens. It gets spiced up with lots of onion, ginger, hot chili pepper, and a spices (I just used a hot curry powder and some cumin).

Paneer is a fresh Indian cheese. You make it by heating milk and adding acid (lemon juice or cider vinegar) which forms curds.

You squeeze the water from the curds, let the cheese drain, and press it like tofu.

Then you fry the cubes of fresh cheese to serve with your saag.

I thought this cheese was beautiful, but tasted bland. Salt may improve it but I really don't think it is worth the time and effort, especially when I live in an awesome city like Minneapolis that has amazing cheese shops all over the place where I can get better stuff.

So, why the heck are you reading about Saag Paneer if it has all these negatives? Well, my friends - I made a few important realizations that changed my mind:

1) I forgot to add salt when I was making this!!!! Salt makes everything better.

2) I ate some leftover Saag a day later and it was 100 times more flavorful (also with salt added). It took the dish from okay to very good. After doing a little google research, lots of people say this dish should be made in advance to get the best flavors. Well, that's good to know! Make ahead next time.

3) You can easily buy paneer instead of making your own. Or, substitute cubed potatoes (which I did with the leftovers and it was awesome), or tofu, or chicken.

With these changes, Saag Paneer is exactly the type of recipe that belongs on Green and Lean - simple, healthy, green, and tasty.

Saag Paneer, Inspired by Saveur and Serious Eats
Serves 4, best made at least 1 day in advance

1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small serrano chili peppers (or 1 if you can't take the heat), seeded and diced
1/2 inch ginger, grated on microplane
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out
1 cup plain yogurt
Store bought paneer, boiled or roasted potato cubes, cooked chicken, or tofu
Naan (Indian flatbread), or rice, or couscous

In a large skillet, heat a few Tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat and saute your onion, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper until soft (about 5 minutes). Add curry, cumin, and salt and continue cooking to toast the spices, about 1-2 minutes more.

Add spinach and heat through. Transfer to a blender or food processor, add yogurt, and blitz until smooth. LET SIT FOR A DAY OR TWO IN THE FRIDGE OR FREEZE FOR FUTURE USE!

When ready to serve, reheat spinach mixture on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Top with either fried paneer or tofu, potatoes, or cooked chicken.

Serve over cooked rice, couscous, or warmed Naan or pita bread.

1 comment:

  1. impressive! I have been dying to make my own ricotta but never done it for fear of some of the comments you made in regards to time length and flavor but maybe it would be worth it! Fun post!