Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Palak Paneer

If I had to name one favorite Indian dish it would be palak paneer - a none too pretty but unbelievably tasty spinach puree with fresh farmers cheese (paneer) that's lovingly spiced and served over a bed of rice or with a stack of naan. Saag paneer is similar, but can contain other greens beyond spinach. I got to thinking that it couldn't be too hard to make - and as it turns out, it's dead simple and comes out even better than the restaurant variety.

Although paneer is not hard to make, I happened to have some "bread cheese" already on hand. This is a popular cheese to grill up for an appetizer, as it holds its shape when cooked, becoming soft and gooey but not stringey. I thought at first that the texture would be very different, but it was just a little firmer than paneer and tasted very similar, so it's an easy shortcut if you don't have time to make your own paneer.

Palak Paneer

1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 Tbsp butter
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 medium jalapeño, seeded & minced
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2/3 cup water
11 oz spinach, washed and dried

1/3 cup "bread cheese", cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

cooked rice or naan for serving

Combine spices in a large, deep sided dry saucepan over medium high heat. Toast until spices are fragrant.

Add butter and onion and saute until onion is soft. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeño and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add water and stir in spinach, reducing the heat to medium low. Put a lid on the pot so the spinach will steam and wilt, stirring occasionally.

Once spinach has wilted, transfer to a blender or use a stick blender to puree the mixture. Return to the pan, add cheese and cook until the cheese warms and softens. Add cilantro and cook 1 minute.

Serve over rice or alongside naan.

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