Saag Paneer

saag paneer // chattavore

Raise your hand if you love spinach dip (raises hand).  I know spinach dip is a mid-nineties phenomenon, but man, I love that stuff.  The first spinach dip I ever had was at TGI Friday’s, which I thought was the most amazing restaurant back in my senior year of high school when I tried it for the first time.  I haven’t eaten there in years, but man, thinking of that spinach dip makes my mouth water.  Actually, it makes me wish I had some right now….

Why am I talking about spinach dip, you may be asking.  This, after all, is not a recipe for spinach dip.  However, saag is Indian for spinach (though this recipe is known as palak paneer in some places)…this is a recipe for, basically, a spinach curry with cheese.

I love spinach.  I have loved it since I was a small child-seriously.  When my grandmother would serve a vegetable that I didn’t like at dinner, she would always open a can of Popeye spinach for me, which I ate liberally sprinkled with ReaLemon juice (you know, the kind from a bottle?), and while I have never personally prepared canned spinach, the school where I taught for the first eight years of my teaching career used to serve canned spinach on a weekly basis and I was more than happy to eat it-nostalgia, I guess.  When I started dating Philip, he didn’t like spinach.  I quickly set to changing that sentiment….and I was quickly successful.  It’s a gift.  We eat spinach often, cooked, raw, and stirred into all manner of things (spinach dip included).

Back in the days when we had cable, I enjoyed watching the show Aarti Party, featuring The Next Food Network Star winner Aarti Sequeira (who first made a name for herself on her own blog, Aarti Paarti) and her fabulous Indian recipes.  Given my love for spinach, I am sure that you can imagine how much my interest was piqued when she debuted a recipe for saag paneer.  Spinach, Indian spices, and homemade cheese?  Yes please.

Aarti’s recipe lit me on fire, though.  I couldn’t finish the bowl.  When I saw a recipe for saag paneer on America’s Test Kitchen, I decided to try it.  While I liked the flavor of the curry itself better, it was way runny and the cheese was too soft.  So…I made it again, this time using Aarti’s cheese recipe and making some adjustments to the amounts of liquid in the ATK recipe (along with a few other adjustments as well).  The result?  Perfect.  I only use 1/2 of a jalapeño because I can’t take the heat…but feel free to use an entire pepper or something hotter, like a serrano (which is hotter than a jalapeño and is actually what Aarti’s recipe calls for).  Anyway, it’s delicious, especially served with homemade naan (Indian flatbread), which I made the first go-round on this recipe but didn’t have time to make the second time around.  Stacy’s Pita Chips are pretty good too!

More spinach from Chattavore: Spinach is my favorite vegetable, bar none. Here are some other things I’ve used it for….twice-baked spinach potatoes, spinach salad, spinach and artichoke pasta pie

saag paneer // chattavore

Saag Paneer

Serves 4
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Allergy Milk, Tree Nuts
Dietary Vegetarian
Website Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 9oz spinach (a regular-sized bag)
  • 1 bunch kale (rinsed and stems removed)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Small onion (finely diced)
  • 1/2-1 jalapeño (minced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (grated or finely minced)
  • 14.5oz can diced unsalted diced tomatoes (drained)
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • chopped cilantro
  • paneer (storebought or homemade using recipe that follows)

Directions

Step 1
Place the spinach in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a microwave-safe plate. Microwave for 3 minutes. Chop 1/3 cup of the spinach and set aside and place the rest in a blender. Repeat this process with the kale.
Step 2
Heat the butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the cumin, coriander, cardamom, and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño, and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and cook until beginning to brown, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.
Step 3
Place half of the onion and tomato mixture and 1/4 cup of the cashews into the blender with the spinach and kale. Add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk. Puree until smooth and add back to the pan with the remaining tomatoes and onions.
Step 4
Place the pan back over medium-high heat. Stir in the remaining buttermilk and the chopped spinach and kale that you set aside. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and cook for about ten minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Step 5
Cut the paneer into 1-inch cubes and gently stir into the spinach mixture. Heat for 1-2 minutes. Serve with basmati rice and top with chopped cilantro and the remaining chopped cashews.

Paneer (Indian Cheese)

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 35 minutes
Allergy Milk
By author Aarti Sequiera

Ingredients

  • 8 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • salt to taste (I use about a tablespoon-a lot of it will drain away with the whey)

Directions

Step 1
Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth.
Step 2
Bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent it from sticking to the pan. When a boil is reached, turn the heat to low and add the salt and lemon juice. Gently stir until the curds and the whey separate (the whey will be a yellowish liquid).
Step 3
Pour the cheese into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Allow to drain for a minute or two, then pull the corners up and tie the cheesecloth to the faucet. Allow to drain for ten minutes hanging there, then press into a flat disc on a plate. Place another plate on top and place a weight (like a can) on top of the top plate. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (I make it the day before).

saag paneer // chattavore

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