Sunday, November 16, 2014

Indian Greens and Cheese

I love the interesting flavors in Indian food. India has so many amazing spices that the combinations are limitless. There is also a strong tradition of vegetarian cooking. You put these two together and you have the makings of a delicious Meatless Monday meal.

Paneer cheese is the firm, drier cheese used in saag (spinach) paneer. It will keep its shape and won't melt. Mozzarella will melt and become gooey (in a good way). Queso fresco (also called queso blanco) can go either way depending on how dry it is. Any of them are delicious but the texture will be quite different.

Garam masala is a blend of warm spices, often coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and cloves. Unlike curry powder, it doesn't contain turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow color. It is available in many supermarkets, Indian markets, and Savory Spice Shops.

Indian Greens and Cheese
(serves 4)

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1 Tablespoon minced or grated ginger
1 pound of greens (beet, chard, or spinach), washed well
¼ teaspoon salt
a pinch of cayenne
8 oz. queso fresco, mozzarella, or paneer cheese, cut into ½" cubes
a pinch of garam masala, optional

Heat a dutch oven or large covered skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel seeds and ground cardamom. Stir for a few seconds, then add the onion and ginger. Cook until browned, stirring often to prevent burning. Add the greens and cover. Cook for a few minutes until the greens begin to wilt. Stir to mix onions with greens. Sprinkle with salt and cayenne. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes until greens are tender. Add cheese cubes, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with a pinch of garam masala, and add more salt if needed. The cheese can be salty so you may not need any. Serve over rice.

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