Monday, August 1, 2011

Saag Paneer sans Paneer

Today is a glorious day! We made saag paneer sans paneer for the first time! FYI, paneer is cheesy cubes.

When I was a girl, my family and I used to go out for Indian food every weekend.  My mom and I always ordered the same thing - saag paneer sans paneer, although I always ordered mine a spicier than my mom's ;).  Still, I can't get enough of this unique, spicy, spinach loaded dish.

Since going out to eat can get expensive, my mom once asked the chef how to make their saag paneer.  Like, in detail so she could make it herself instead of going to the restaurant.  Well, the most info they gave her was "you take spinach and blend it."  Period.  So, my mom did just that, and let me tell you, it's not saag paneer.  

After that incident, I never attempted to make saag paneer, but when this legitimate recipe came to me, I jumped on it and gosh, Todd and I absolutely devoured it!  I was impressed how the flavors so amazingly matched the saag I've had at restaurants.

A few notes, this recipe is spicy already (i.e. I didn't add sriracha), so if you're spice adverse  clean out the entire pepper.  Also, the dish comes out a little greener than you might find in restaurants, although it gets darker and more flavorful as you let it rest.  If you want to make it creamier, you might use full fat plain yogurt instead of fat free.

Saag Paneer sans Paneer 
Serves 2 for dinner
Slightly adapted from Gluten Free Girl

12 ounces paneer (Indian cheese, either made from my recipe, or store-bought), cut into 1-inch cubes

1 teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil + 1½ tablespoons extra

2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1-inch thumb ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 large green Serrano chilli, cut in half with one side rinsed out and second side with seeds

½ teaspoon garam masala or curry powde

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ cup water

1 container of fat-free plain yogurt

In a large bowl, whisk together turmeric, cayenne, salt and oil.  Gently, drop in the cubes of paneer and toss gently, taking care not to break the cubes if you’re using the homemade kind. Let the cubes marinate while you get the rest of your ingredients together and prepped.

Thaw spinach in microwave (5 minutes on high), then puree in your food processor until smooth.  Alternatively, you can chop it up very finely with your knife.

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add oil to the pan.  Add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chili.  Now here’s the important part: sauté the mixture until it’s evenly toffee-colored, which should take about 15 minutes. 

Add the garam masala/curry power, coriander and cumin.  If you haven’t already, sprinkle a little water to keep the spices from burning.  Cook, stirring often, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the raw scent of the spices cooks out, and it all smells a bit more melodious.

Add the spinach, and stir well, incorporating the spiced onion mixture into the spinach.  Add the a little salt and ½ cup water, stir, and cook about 5 minutes with the lid on.

Now, turn the heat off.  Add the yogurt, a little at a time to keep it from curdling.  Once the yogurt is well mixed into the spinach, turn the heat back on, cover and cook 5 minutes so everything is warmed through and serve.

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