Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saag Paneer (Indian spinach dish with homemade cheese)

This may be the best thing you will ever put in your mouth!

Paneer, approximately 8 oz., cut into 3/4 inch dice (see previous post for paneer preparation) 
all purpose flour (I substituted coconut flour)

Ghee, 2 oz (ghee is clarified butter)
green pepper, 1 medium, diced (I substituted red pepper because greens do not agree with me)
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 lb washed spinach

Ghee, 2 oz (in addition to the above amount)
1/2 lb onion, diced
1 tablespoon ginger, julienned 
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 jalapeno peppers, finely minced (you may vary amount according to taste,but this is not too spicy)
water, as needed
salt, as needed
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 teaspoons garam masala (recipe at bottom of post)

Prep work:
If you buy spinach this way, and I suggest that you do because it is cheaper,
it is important to wash it several times.
I like to immerse the stemmed leaves in a large bowl of water,
drain, and repeat twice more.

Jalapenos:  see my gloves?!

cut off the ends first

make one cut, lengthwise, and open the pod

remove the seeds

slice lengthwise into thin strips

then cross-cut the strips into fine dice

cut the paneer into 3/4 inch dice.  Toss with flour.
I used coconut because it is lower carb and higher in fiber & protein

julienned ginger

Here is the mise en place
Cooking Method:
1. melt 2 oz ghee.  Cook the nuts until they begin to brown slightly.
2. Add the single bell pepper, cook gently until it is tender.
3. Add spinach, season with salt and cook until wilted.
4. Remove from heat. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. (be sure to remove the central vent in blender or food processor because the steam will cause an explosion otherwise!). Set aside.

5. Dust the paneer with choice of flour.  Cook in vegetable oil until it is lightly browned on all sides.  Set aside.

6. In remaining ghee, sweat the onions until very tender and slightly browned.
7.  Add the ginger and cook for one more minute.
8. Add turmeric, jalapenos, and red peppers and sweat gently until the red peppers begin to soften.
9.  Add spinach puree along with enough water to create a smooth sauce. Simmer for about 3 minutes and adjust seasoning with salt.
10. Add the fried paneer and garam masala.
11.  At service, add about 1-2 tablespoon of ghee to mellow the sauce (optional).

saute cashews in ghee
add red (or green) peppers

add spinach

cook until wilted

transfer to food processor (remember to remove the central core to allow heat to vent!)
Process until smooth

Place paneer in a pan with pre-heated oil, such as grapeseed.
Cook until each side is slightly browned.

Remove and set aside.

In remaining ghee, sweat onions until transparent and add ginger.
Cook another minute.

Add turmeric, jalapenos, and red peppers and sweat gently until the red peppers begin to soften.

Add spinach puree along with enough water to create a smooth sauce. and simmer for about 3 minutes and adjust seasoning with salt.

Add paneer and garam masala.

Garam masala recipe:
1.5 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoons cloves
6 green cardamom pods
3 2-inch pieces of cinnamon stick
6 tablespoons cumin seeds
8 dried chili arbols (stems and seeds removed)

1.  In a dry skillet, toast all spices over a medium heat until fragrant.
2. Transfer spices to a spice grinder and process to a fine powder.

Store in a sealed jar.

Yield:  3/4 cup

Why make your own?  Trust me:  it is 100% more flavorful than anything you purchase pre-made in a store!  Find a place that sells bulk spices and purchse small amounts for this recipe.  Bulk purveyors have greater turnover, thus assuring your spices are fresh.  There is no comparison.

This dry mixture is useful in many dishes, so do not feel it should only be used in this one.  I use it in eggs, salad vinaigrettes, and on meats.  Try it.  You will not be sorry!

Note:  The spinach mixture can be prepared in advance of service and reheated.  I recommend doing this because it seems to enhance the flavor tremendously.  It is simply wonderful.

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