That was how I explained the Indian origin of this dish to my fiance’s roommate. Terrible, I know. Beth told me so, and I believe her.
I’ve never met a curry I didn’t like, but this dish was (almost) an exception. I made palak paneer (basically curried spinach with paneer cheese) from an excellent recipe a while back, but I never wrote down the recipe. I tell myself that I won’t forget good recipes, and so I don’t write them down. This is the wrong answer. So, I needed a decent recipe for palak paneer. I hit up the Google, and found a 4-star recipe on allrecipes.com. Ok, I said… I’ll give this a shot. I should have taken a clue from the way they replaced paneer with ricotta- the name of the dish is palak paneer for crying out loud! I ended up creating myself an account on allrecipes.com just so I could express my feelings.
Why, you ask, didn’t I just modify as I went along like a real cook? I’ve used the site several times before, and it always peeves me to see a recipe downrated with a comment along the lines of “These cherry-almond bars were just 2 stars. I used butter instead of shortening and some lemon filling that my mother-in-law brought us from England when she went over for Princess Di’s funeral. I didn’t have almonds, so I topped them with crushed-up peanut clusters left over from Halloween. My husband thought they were too buttery and didn’t like the lemon.” Thanks for that helpful advice. I bet America’s Test Kitchen is just beating down your door so you can spread the good word of “don’t put past-date Halloween crap on desserts”.
(very loosely courtesy allrecipes.com)
- 4 tbsp butter or ghee (clarified butter)
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger root, grated
- 2 dried red chile peppers
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 tsp whole cumin
- 2 tsp whole coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1tsp salt
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 3 pounds fresh spinach, torn or chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 4 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves
- 8 ounces paneer cheese (if you can’t find an Indian/Pak market, sub firm tofu)
In a large saucepan heat half the butter and saute ginger, chilies and onion over medium heat until brown. In a small frying pan, toast the cinnamon, cumin and coriander until the seeds become fragrant and the cinnamon begins to unfurl. Grind or crush the seeds. Add garlic, salt, toasted spices, tumeric and sour cream. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until the spinach begins to wilt (might have to do this in batches, depending on pan size. I used a 2qt covered pan.) Pour spinach mixture into a blender or food processor and add the tomato, remaining ginger, and cilantro. Pulse until the spinach is finely chopped. Add spinach mixture and yogurt back to saucepan over low heat. Adjust seasoning if needed.
Take the small pan from the spices (I hate doing extra dishes) and melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Cut the cheese (or tofu if you have to use it) into bite-sized pieces and fry til browned. Plate spinach, then top with cheese and a dollop of plain yogurt. Serve with rice or naan.
This recipe is pretty decent. Next time I won’t be lazy and I’ll actually do a yeast naan.
- 3 cups flour (can use 1/2 whole wheat flour)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp melted butter or ghee
- 1 egg, beaten
Mix dry ingredients together, forming a well in the center. Add the butter/ghee, milk, yogurt and egg. Mix together and turn out to knead until a smooth but slightly sticky dough forms. Cover the dough and let it rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes or so.
If you have a pizza stone, put it on the top rack of the oven. If you don’t, turn a baking sheet upside down on the top rack. Preheat the oven to 500. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and divide into 10 portions. Roll or stretch each one into a thin round, dusting with flour as needed. Don’t worry if the dough isn’t uniform- authentic naan is thin in spots and puffy in others. It’s part of the appeal.
Toss each round onto the pizza stone and bake until puffed and brown in spots (this should only take a couple of minutes). Top with melted butter and ground cumin, garam masala or chopped garlic sauted in butter.