Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saag Paneer

I actually made this meal in the middle of the summer. But, somehow, it didn't feel like the right time to post it. For me, this meal is a cool weather kind of thing. It comes in handy though...having some posts on the back burner...for times like this week.
I spent the past weekend in NYC at a Photoshop workshop for bloggers, called Blogshop. It was the best! I learned so much, and want to tell you all about it...I will soon. For now, I am playing catch up. Not being home for 2 days felt like a week...or, I should say it looked like I had been gone a week when I got home.

Today, while I was working on this post, I wished I was having it tonight. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I love Indian food. Specifically, Saag Paneer, also known as Palak Paneer. It's a stew-like dish, made with spinach {the saag, or palak} and paneer...which is a firm Indian cheese that has a very mild flavor. The two are cooked with aromatic spices, onions and cream. How much cream depends on the Indian restaurant, or chef who happens to be preparing it.

I have my spots...the restaurants I order take-out from on a regular basis and I happen to like places that make it on the creamier side. I've had it with what seems like no cream at all, and while good, I still prefer the creamy kind...and who wouldn't, right?

I found this recipe on Food52, and once I discovered it I knew it would be made. Their recipe uses a mixture of buttermilk and cream. I adjusted it a bit, because while I do like the tang of the buttermilk, I didn't want it to be overly predominant. I wanted the creaminess that I love to balance out some of the acidity.

I used half & half instead of heavy cream, mostly because it's what I had on hand, but also because I think it does the trick just fine with a slight reduction in the fat content. You can adjust this to your taste. I've even seen recipes that use only buttermilk and yogurt, and then some that use ricotta...which I would imagine would be delicious. So, it's up to you. Any way you make it will be great because the spice mixture is spot on...the smell will fill your whole house with deliciousness.

I love to serve this dish with some jasmine rice and Indian naan, which I buy frozen from Trader Joe's. Love that stuff.

Saag Paneer

Adapted from Food52
Serves 4
Ghee is a clarified butter, popular in Indian cuisine, which can be found in most specialty, or ethnic grocery stores. Because the butter has been previously heated, it has a toasted, almost nutty flavor. You can clarify your own butter at home, or substitute vegetable oil. I like to serve this dish with jasmine rice and Indian naan bread.

2 tablespoons ghee {or vegetable oil}
8 ounces paneer cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons spice mixture {recipe below}
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt {or to taste}
2 {10 ounce} packages frozen spinach, thawed
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup half & half
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the ghee in a large skillet, or saute pan over medium heat. Add the cubed paneer, and cook, lightly browning on all sides, for about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Add the onion to the same pan and saute for about 5 minutes, or until just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, ginger, spice mixture, turmeric, and salt. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Squeeze as much liquid from the spinach as possible, and add to the pan. Cook until the spinach is heated through, about 3 minutes. Add the buttermilk and cream, and simmer for another 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add in the nutmeg, some black pepper {to taste}, and some additional salt, if necessary. Stir in the paneer, heat for a minute or two, and serve.

Spice Mixture

Adapted from Food52
Makes a 1/4 cup
If you don't have a mortar and pestle, an electric coffee grinder can be used.

2 tablespoons cumin seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
2 teaspoons mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cardamom pods
3 whole cloves

Grind the spices into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. The mixture can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.

Click here and here for the printable recipes.


clawhammer72 said...

In case you are interested, it is very easy to make one's own paneer: just heat some milk(1/2 to 1 gallon) to around 170degrees, add some acid (lemon juice or vinegar --about a tblsp or two) and then strain in cheescloth and press for an hour or two in the fridge.

It ends up being much cheaper and better tasting than that bought in the store.

london bakes said...

I love Indian food so much and this looks absolutely delicious!

kate said...

clawhammer - I actually meant to discuss this in the post, so thanks for reminding me! Making homemade paneer is on my to try list, but I was so excited when I saw it in the store that I bought some.
Thanks for the instructions. I will be trying that soon!

Lauren's Latest said...

This looks strangely delicious to me! Usually I look at Indian food and think "meh" but you've got me with this one!

Susanna Carrillo said...

YUM...love your tablecloth!

Lauren H. said...

Where did you get the paneer? I made your curry chicken dish and the kids looooved it, so inspired to try this one too.

kate said...

Lauren- At Whole Foods...I'm pretty sure most of them have it. One out of two kids liked it here :)

Jeanette said...

Saag Paneer is one of my favorite Indian dishes - would love to try it with buttermilk like you did.

Joanne said...

This is definitely one of my FAVORITE indian dishes...any time of year. Paneer is a mild obsession of mine so I'll for sure be making this! I always love how bright and colorful your photos are...gorgeous.

Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood said...

I didn't make a whole lot of Indian food when I was a culinary school student, but I get some take out from a nearby place every other week and am thrilled to see a recipe for my favorite - saag paneer. Where's my pan ... ! (If you want to see what we did cook at culinary school, here you go: "Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood" - http://amzn.to/oqXw1R ). Cheers!

myseastory said...

I am loving you blog, recipes and pictures...will definitelyvtry this one!! xx j

Lourdes tootiredmoms.com said...

I am a huge Indian food fan, too! And, like you...saag paneer is my fav! I've seen other recipes that seem quite intimidating. Your recipe seems doable. Thanks!

Niv mani said...

I could just eat the screen up, the saag paneer looks so gorgeous!

Johanna said...

I made this last night and it was delicious! I actually made my own paneer too, because the paneer at WF was nearly $10 for a little slab. I spent $4 for a half gallon of milk and a lemon and had fresh paneer in 30 minutes. It was really fun and easy to make. Thanks for the recipe, I will be making it again. :)

Carolyn said...

Oh, how I love saag paneer. And your photos are always terrific, so I can hardly wait to see what happens post-Blogshop.

This American Bite said...

This is one of my favorite Indian dishes, thank you for the reminder!

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