Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Indian Spinach & Fresh Cheese

We recently held a class on easy Indian cooking. It would be presumptuous of us to say that this recipe is actually Indian. It's more in the Indian style and it is a tasty version of the Saag Paneer that is very popular in Indian restaurants in the US. We use a Mexican cheese called queso blanco or queso fresco (which translates to white cheese or fresh cheese) as a substitute for paneer. Paneer is made the same way and you can even make it yourself. But, that wouldn't be quick and easy, would it?  Queso blanco is available at supermarkets with a good selection of Mexican products and it comes pretty close to paneer. We found it a bit saltier than paneer, so we recommend you go easy on the salt if using it.

Indian Spinach and Fresh Cheese (Saag Paneer)
(serves 4-6, total cost $8.23)

4 Tablespoons butter
A 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½-1 fresh hot green chili, seeded and minced
2 10-12 oz. packages of chopped frozen spinach, thawed
½-1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon garam masala (see notes)
1 pound of paneer or queso blanco, cut into 1” cubes (see notes)
3 Tablespoons heavy cream

Heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and green chili. Stir about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add spinach, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon garam masala. Stir to combine. Cover, lower heat to low, and cook gently for 15 minutes. Add paneer. Sprinkle with remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, and remaining ¼ teaspoon of garam masala. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Serve over rice or with Indian naan.

Notes: Garam masala is an Indian spice blend usually made with cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves. Unlike curry powder, it contains no turmeric. It is available at most supermarkets. Paneer is an Indian cheese. Mexican queso blanco (also labeled queso fresco) is the best substitute and is readily available in supermarkets with a good selection of Mexican products.

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