Friday, February 27, 2009

Saag it to me

A few nights ago (the same night we made the paneer), we made some delicious palak (or saag) paneer. Indian food is probably my favorite kind of food, but it can be a bit labor intensive. An Indian friend of mine once told me that if Indians spent half as much time thinking about how to develop their country as they do in the kitchen, India would be the richest country in the world. That said, if you've already made the paneer or bought some ready-made in the store, this is a relative easy dish to make. Here is how it works.

First see if you have all the ingredients (you can get all the spices in most grocery stores):

1 tablespoon black mustard seed
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 large onion (chopped)
4-5 cloves garlic (or more if you are into that kind of thing)
1 finger-length piece of ginger (finely chopped or grated)
1-2 hot chili peppers (or as many as you can take)
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1.5 tablespoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 tablespoons garam masala
fresh spinach (1 bunch/large bag, hard to have too much)
cream or cream cheese (to give some extra creaminess at the end)

And then?

Most Indian recipes call for ghee (clarified butter), but I usually just use butter or olive oil or sometimes a little of both. Heat some oil and/or butter in a broad pan and add the black mustard and cumin seeds. Fry until the mustard seeds start to pop or turn grey. Next add the onion, garlic, ginger, and hot peppers. Saute until the onions are translucent. Now add the powdered spices (cumin, paprika, corriander, and tumeric). I don't usually measure how much of these I put in, but the measures I listed are my best guess. Stir them up with the oniony mixture and let it fry a bit more (if you need, add more oil). This might be a good time to add some salt as well. I usually add a bit when I am doing the onions and then a bit just before I add the spinach, why? Who knows! Add the spinach and cook covered for a few minutes. Once the spinach is cooked, remove from the heat and carefully pour your concotion into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour this back into the pan and add water (or leftover whey from making the paneer) until you get the level of thickness that seems appealing to you. Add the paneer, garam masala, the cream or cream cheese (to your desired level of creaminess) and you are good to go! Top with chopped cilantro (or don't) and serve over rice or with some kind of flat bread like chapati or naan.

1 comment:

  1. I decided to have myself a little British Colonial night: Dry Martini, coupled with the abovementioned Indian dish. As I type this, I am enjoying a delicious palak paneer, thanks to David and Jonathan's recipe. I was a little impatient on the paneer front, so it ended up a little moist and crumbly, but it nevertheless proved a fine compliment to the palak. Furthermore, I'm but a lowly poor gent in his mid-twenties and haven't a blender, so I simply diced the onions and spinach as fine as I could and added it to my wok as is, sans blending. The result is a chunkier palak, but the result is all the same satisfying. I am taken particularly by the contrast b/t the ginger and the cumin. In lieu of chili peppers I threw in a fresno pepper, which is present in the taste but by no means overpowering. Great recipe guys! The martini (read: the four) doesn't hurt either. Cheers