Monday, July 21, 2008

saag paneer

this is a very yummy version using fresh spinach. it's delicious. the cooking takes only about 15 minutes, but the prep takes about 45—you must get all the ingredients ready beforehand. i like to combine all the ingredients that will be added at the same step in one bowl, so when the moment comes i can dump them in and move on quickly. if you don't have all of these spices, i suggest you go to harvest, the co-op in central square. there you can buy spices in bulk, which is great: if you don't cook indian food very often, a quarter's worth of cumin seeds will probably do you just fine. (if you can't tell everything apart by sniffing, though, make sure to label the little bags.)

adapted from this excellent (though overly rich, i think) recipe. serves four.

heat 1-2 tbsp. of peanut oil over medium-high heat, and fry the cubed paneer until it is a light golden color on a couple of sides. drain on a paper towel. (this is optional—the paneer is also tasty unfried.)

in a big pan, heat 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. add 1 onion, chopped in a medium dice, and cook a few minutes until it is soft and golden. then add, all at once:

1 cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
3 cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 hot green pepper, de-seeded and minced
1 tomato, chopped

cook for 2-3 minutes. fish out all of the cloves, cardamom pods, and bay leaves (because it is no fun to find yourself chewing on a bitter clove down the line). then add 3 bunches of spinach, de-stemmed and washed thoroughly, turning frequently to let the spinach cook down. when all the spinach has wilted and turned a bright green, add these spices:

1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. garam masala
tiny pinch ground cardamon
tiny pinch ground clove
1 tsp. salt (or less or more, if you like)
a couple of grinds of black pepper

mix well and cook everything for another 3 minutes over medium heat. then add:

2 tsp. tomato paste
1/3 cup half-and-half (richer version) OR 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt (lighter version)

mix well, turn heat down, and simmer gently for another 5 minutes or so. before serving, mix in the paneer and sprinkle a generous amount of freshly chopped cilantro on top.

No comments: