May 31, 2008

Saag Paneer

1 cup paneer, cubed
16 oz frozen, defrosted spinach (or 8 oz each spinach and mustard greens)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic
1 green chile, diced
2 inch knob ginger, sliced into matchsticks
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon amchur powder
1/2 teaspoon asofoetida
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon

canola oil

In a large skillet, saute the onion, ginger, chile and garlic until fragrant and soft in a small amount of canola oil. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they begin to pop. Add the rest of the spices, spinach, water, lemon juice cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the paneer and yogurt and cook until the paneer is warmed through.

My thoughts:

There are as many ways to make saag paneer (or its cousin, palak paneer, which is made with just spinach) as there are Indian restaurants but the beautiful thing about making it at home is that you can tweak the spices to your liking. You can chop the onions, garlic and ginger or make a paste with them or slice them as I did here. You can leave out the mustard seeds or not. You can add some yogurt or even cream to bring out the creaminess in the greens or leave it out entirely. Every time I have it out, it is slightly different. For this recipe, I combined the elements and textures I've enjoyed the most. I made this for my husband's birthday (as per his request) and it was pretty quick and simple to make, especially since I thought ahead and made the paneer the day before. Of course, you can use store-bought paneer or even tofu (and if you also leave out the yogurt it would be vegan) instead and it would fine.

Quick note: I find that using frozen spinach and mustard greens (when available) is not only cheaper, but just as tasty as using fresh, as you will be cooking the greens for a long time and don't need a crisp texture.