April 1, 2009

Paneer is Here

While at the amazing foodie wonderland that is the Berkeley Bowl (or the “Nerkeley Bowl” as some may call it) I discovered a new addition to my sodium-free arsenal:


This delicious cheese is popular in South Asian and Persian cuisine – it is sturdy and can be grilled and fried and stays firm in a variety of delicious sauces. Although it is referred to sometimes as an “Indian cottage cheese,” I think it tastes is much more like mozzarella (and goes well with a spectrum of flavors from spicey curry to a traditional tomato sauce). It is completely vegetarian, can be served hot, cold, in a salad, on rice, or just snakced upon on its own – its versatile, available in stores, and you can easily make it at home! All you need is whole milk, acid (lemon juice or vinegar), a cheese cloth, and this simple wiki how article.

Last night, I attempted a hybrid version of Paneer Masala and Kadai Paneer (I think…)

I have to apologize as I really do not use any sort of measurements when I cook (must be something I picked up from my grandmother), but here is a rather ad-hoc recipe from the dish I made last night and continue to eat well into the next day:

Step 1: Heat about 2 tbsp of sesame oil in a frying pan (medium-high heat).

Step 2: Cube paneer (for two people with big tummies, I had about 15-20 cubes) and when oil is ready (flick some drops of water in the oil, if it “spits” it is ready) throw in paneer. Be careful to move around with spatula so cheese does not stick to pan. After about 2-3min, flip over to other side. After 2-3 more min, take out paneer and put aside in another bowl

Step 3: Wash a bunch of spinach (2-3 fistfulls) and cut off stems. Roughly chop 6 cloves of garlic and dice half a medium size yellow onion. Open a can of salt-free tomatoes or roughly dice six medium sized red guys.

Step 4: Turn heat back on to frying pan with sesame oil (medium-high heat). When oil is ready again, throw in onions and garlic.

Step 5: When onions become transparent, put in spinach and tomatoes. Stir and sautee for about 5 minutes. Add some Indian spices to taste (curry, turmeric, cumin, white pepper, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika) and some chopped ginger.

Step 6 (optional): For a creamier sauce, transfer spinach/tomato/garlic/onion mixture to a separate bowl use an immersion blender (or regular blender if you’re old school) to puree mixture. No need to make it completely smooth, blend until your desired texture is achieved. Put sauce back into frying pan and add about 3 tbsp of cream.

Step 7: Continue on medium-low heat and add back paneer cubes.

Step 8: Right before serving, for extra texture and color, dice one large pepper (red, green, yellow, or orange) and put into the peener/sauce pan.

Step 9: Serve paneer over a steaming bowl of white rice and garnish with parsley if desired.

*after-thought additions: As discussed last night with fellow test-eater, this simple dish would be extraordinary with some roasted eggplant, peas, and cubes lamb as well…

Get er done!

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