Monday, April 10, 2017

Saag Paneer (Spinach Curry with fresh cheese)

I've been staying out of the kitchen as much as possible since my son had surgery to correct his polydactyly. He's been in a cast all the way up his arm for almost three weeks. (he finally gets it off Wednesday!) The first week he needed extra help and constant attention. As he's gotten used to his cast he has gotten more independent. So, I've gotten the chance to resume planning and cooking weekly menus for my family. Perhaps because I've been away for a little while I went a bit overboard this week. I made Croatian Chicken Paprikash, Shakshuka with the leftovers as well as a loaf of homemade sesame semolina crusty bread to accompany and finally Saag Paneer with homemade cheese. The Saag Paneer was inspired, in a roundabout way, by my son.

Usually we try to get our 17 month old to try whatever we’re eating, but my son is not a fan of spinach. He's willing to eat it in purees, as long as it's disguised by beans and other vegetables. But when I make it the star of a dish, he refuses to eat it. He's not generally a picky eater. After all, he happily eats curry rice noodles and beef koobideh, as well as chicken paprikash... Thankfully, he seems to be willing to try and enjoy a lot of different food. Because he's an adventurous eater, I give him lots of flavors to sample. That is more or less how I started to conceive a baby food cookbook. As I was writing recipes for it I tried to think of a spectacular spinach dish to convince Henry to like it. First I tried baby creamed spinach, with roasted garlic and Greek yogurt. He spit it out. He never spits anything out. I then remembered a friend's fabulously simple homemade paneer recipe and I thought of making Baby Saag Paneer. He didn't like it, either, although he was perfectly willing to eat the paneer on its own and a soft piece of semolina bread dipped in the Saag Paneer gravy. So, I still hadn't convinced him to eat spinach, but me and my husband didn't mind; we eagerly finished the leftovers. This dish was clearly more to adult tastes. And wow was it ever tasty! Using Azlin’s easy recipe for homemade paneer, it was easy. And so delicious you'll be hoping for leftovers, too.

because this was originally conceived for my baby food cookbook you're getting a sneak peek at the photography.

Saag Paneer

Serves 6

18 ounces baby spinach, sauteed and strained (see notes)
2/3 cup greek yogurt
1 cup half n half
3 Tablespoons clarified butter (see notes)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Tiny pinch anise seeds
1 small onion, julienned
70 grams paneer (see notes for substitutes), in 1/2 inch dice
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
1 bay leaf
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

1. Toss cheese cubes with 1/2 teaspoon curry powder. In a saucepan over medium high heat, add a Tablespoon clarified butter, a few drops of olive oil, and fry the cheese cubes until they developed color all around the outside. When they are done remove from heat and set them aside.
2. Add remainder of butter and olive oil. Saute onions until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in spices and ground ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until spices become fragrant (about 1 minute).
3. Turn heat down to low. Stir in half n half and yogurt. When everything is mixed together add spinach and reintroduce cheese. Bring everything up to temperature.

Serve with long grain rice and flat bread.

After sauteeing spinach, press all of the liquid out before continuing to add it to a dish.
To clarify butter, melt it and pour through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve.
You can substitute mozzarella, especially fresh mozzarella (rinsed) for panner; you can also substitute tofu.

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