Thursday, September 23, 2010

Palak Paneer

I always have spinach on my Costco list. I love that box of organic baby spinach, all washed and ready to use. And what is the one thing I usually end up making with those lovely green leaves? Palak Paneer, of course! Also known as Saag Paneer in most Indian restaurants and pretty popular too. (Palak= spinach, Saag= leafy greens). As for paneer- simply put, it is an Indian cottage cheese that you can make easily at home. All you need is some milk (2% reduced fat or err, whole milk) and something acidic such as lime juice or vinegar. As for me, well, I just pick up my paneer from Costco. Yep, Costco carries paneer now!

I usually like to mix up a couple different kinds of leafy greens together for this preparation. For instance maybe some swiss chard plus spinach or kale plus spinach or collard greens plus spinach etc or well, a nice mix of all of these. Of course, plain spinach is just fine.


A good amount of spinach (remember when cooked, spinach reduces in quantity.........), a couple cloves of garlic, a few green chillies (depends on how much heat you want), a medium onion finely chopped, 1 tomato (optional), cumin seeds, oil and of course salt.

The Spinach:

There's that old way of frying the spinach in a good deal of oil that completely destroys all the nutrients from the spinach. Then there is the completely oil-less version where you just cook the spinach in some extra water and go from there. And then there is my version that uses a little bit of oil and a little bit of water without destroying all the good stuff and retaining the taste.

I take a pot/pan, put in a little bit of oil and then throw in the ready-to-use spinach. Throw in a couple cloves of garlic as well as some lovely thai green chillies. Sometimes I add a chopped tomato to this as well. I stir everything up and add a wee bit of salt. By then anyway the spinach starts to wilt--- you know how quickly it cooks up. That's it. I add a quarter cup or so of water. It is all cooked within 5 minutes! I then let it stand to cool off before I puree it.

 Spinach all ready to be pureed

The Paneer:

While the spinach is cooling off, I prep up my paneer. I cut up the paneer into bite sized cubes (you could do cuboids...........). Earlier I used to just use "raw" paneer as it is. But of late I prefer to brown it up. Now again, there is that old way of literally frying up the paneer pieces in oil and then there is the total opposite option of baking. My method is much simpler and I don't even have to switch on the oven (I don't use any oil either and it is yummy!). I just get my non-stick pan going and then drop in the paneer pieces one by one. Within under 4 minutes, all the paneer cubes are browned up (you gotta flip them once--- common sense!).

Browning up the paneer cubes in my non-stick pan (paneer by itself is pretty fatty........)

And finally:

1. I then puree the cooled spinach with my neat little hand processor (more convenient than the food processor for this dish). And then add the browned paneer cubes into this puree. I usually have to add some extra water to fix the consistency- should be not too thin, nor too thick.

2. In the same pan that I used to brown up the paneer, I add a teaspoon or two of oil, splutter some cumin seeds and sautee the chopped onion. I finally fold this into the almost ready palak paneer. I add some salt to taste. I mix up everything and give it one more round of heating for about a couple minutes---- there is no more cooking needed at this point........and ta da! Palak Paneer is ready to be eaten with rice or chapattis or couscous or quinoa--- your choice! ;)

Mmm, yummy palak paneer!

Look at the gorgeous green color and the lovely browned up paneer-- DELICIOUS!

I used to think that palak paneer is so fancy and must take a lot of effort to make. But in reality it is THE simplest thing to whip up. So yeah, you can eat "fancy" even on a crazy weeknight!

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