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Recipe Friday: Paalak Paneer (Indian Cheese and Spinach Curry)

Posted on: May 6, 2011

Hey guys, this is a GOOD one! Good for the taste buds and belly… but not so much for the eyes. That’s why I don’t have a snapshot. If you look at it, you have pureed spinach with spices and tomato paste… just think about what that might look like. YUK. You guys would never want to make it!

But I strongly encourage you to try this, because it is wonderful! If you’ve had this dish at an Indian restaurant before, you know how great it is. And now, you know how easy it can be to recreate it at home!

A few ingredients that may be unusual to you:

  • Paneer: an Indian cheese. If you live in an urban area, you may be able to pick it up in an international market. Otherwise, firm tofu substitutes just as well.
  • Garam masala: a warm spice blend used in Indian cooking. It combines sweet and savory, including flavors such as cinnamon and cumin. Most mainstream seasoning brands sell a garam masala mix these days.
  • Here we go!

    Paalak Paneer
    adapted from The Everything Indian Cookbook

    2 tbsp vegetable oil
    1 medium red onion, minced
    1 large garlic clove, minced
    1 tsp minced ginger
    1/4 c tomato paste
    1 jalapeno, minced, no seeds or ribs
    1/4 tsp turmeric
    1/2 tsp garam masala
    1/2 tsp cumin
    1/2 tsp coriander
    1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes (to taste)
    1 10-oz package chopped frozen spinach, thawed
    1/2 c room temperature water (or more)
    1/4 c plain lowfat yogurt
    1 c paneer (firm tofu may be substituted), diced in 1/2-in cubes, pan-fried if desired
    Sea salt, to taste

    1. In a medium-sized pan, heat the oil on medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring continuously until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

    2. Add the ginger and garlic and saute 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook 2 minutes.

    3. Quickly add the jalapeno, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, coriander, and chili flakes; saute 30 seconds.

    4. Add the spinach (make sure most of the water has been squeezed out) and cook about 3 minutes, stirring constantly, or until combined. Add the water and cook, uncovered, on low heat for about 20 minutes. If the mixture starts to dry out, add more water. Cook until the spinach is soft. Add yogurt.

    5. Puree about 3/4 of the mixture in a blender, if desired, to create a smoother sauce. (You may need to add more water.) Return to pan. If the sauce is too spicy, add more yogurt.

    6. Add the paneer or tofu to the pan, and heat everything through for about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt, fresh-ground pepper, and yogurt. Enjoy! Serve on its own or with basmati rice.

    **While it’s not the healthiest, I do prefer to pan-fry my paneer and drain/blot the pieces on paper towel. The paneer holds up to the spinach sauce a little better. You can skip this step, if you want.

    This recipe got rave reviews from friends a few weeks ago–so try it out, and wow your friends, as well! Who says you need to go to a restaurant to get good Indian food?

    Do you like Indian food? If so, what’s your favorite dish?

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