I’ve been craving Indian food all weekend. I don’t know if it’s because I’m sick to death of stuffing and green bean casserole, or because I saw Life of Pi over the weekend (it was the dinner-at-home-in-India scenes, not the marooned-on-a-life-raft-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean that did it), but I can’t stop thinking about vegetable curry. And naan. And dal. And mango lassis.
My very favorite Indian dish, the one I order every single time I’m at an Indian restaurant (even though I study the menu each time as if I’d order something different) is saag paneer, and it’s super-easy to make at home. Saag paneer is greens cooked with cheese — at Indian restaurants the greens are usually spinach; sometimes mustard greens are used, but you can really use anything green. Paneer is Indian cheese. It’s often translated as “cottage cheese,” but don’t get it confused with the cold, lumpy stuff your grandma eats with peaches. Paneer is smooth-yet-firm, with a mild flavor, almost like fresh mozzarella. The texture is similar to firm tofu and if you want to make this recipe vegan, you can use firm tofu cubes instead. As for the paneer, you can buy it in large grocery stores or in Indian markets, or you can make it at home pretty easily.
Bal Arneson’s recipe calls for broccoli, rapini (broccoli rabe) and spinach, but you can switch it up a bit depending on what you have on-hand — use more broccoli if you can’t find rapini, or substitute mustard greens for the spinach if you have a whole bunch of those. Serve the sag and paneer with basmati rice or naan — make your own if you’re feeling ambitious, but I’ve been seeing naan in stores a lot lately so you should be able to buy it. If not, warm pitas make a pretty good substitute.
2 cups chopped fresh broccoli
2 cups chopped fresh rapini
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, plus more for frying the paneer
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 cup cubed paneer (Indian cheese)
Steam the broccoli, rapini and spinach in a stove-top steamer until they are bright green and tender, and then set aside.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook for 4 minutes. Add the garam masala, fenugreek seeds, and salt and stir well to toast. Stir in the steamed greens and let simmer for 5 minutes.
Heat another nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Add the cubed paneer to the hot oil and cook until golden, turning frequently. Stir the paneer into the spinach mixture and serve with rice.
Serving suggestion: Serve with rice.
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