Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer and Basmati Rice

They say that you eat with your eyes first.  I totally get that!  If something looks good, you expect it to taste good, and vice versa.  Unfortunately, to a lot of people this dish does not look good.  In fact, it can look a little bit slimy.  Don’t be fooled, it’s totally yummy!  The fragrant spices, mild spinach, tangy yogurt, and creamy Paneer are a heavenly combination.  Saag Paneer is a traditional East Indian dish with a balance of flavors.

Paneer is the go-to cheese for weekly vegetarian nights at our house.  It is so versatile, I can use it in all types of dishes from Asian stir fry to sandwiches ( I will have to share that with you sometime).

Saag Paneer

Cut the Paneer in one inch cubes and place it in a seal-able bag.

Cut up paneer cheese

Mix the turmeric, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl.  Whisk in 3 tablespoons of oil.

Indian spices and salt

Pour the marinade in the bag with the Paneer and gently massage the bag to evenly distribute the marinade.  Let that marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients.

Marinate the Paneer Cheese

Lightly saute the Paneer until it just begins to brown.  YUM!

Saute paneer cheese

Set the Paneer aside, then add more oil to the same pan and saute the onions and chile.

Saute onions

Keep sauteing the onions until they are well caramelized.  They should be a lovely toffee color.  This brings out the sweetness in the onions.  Once the onions reach a golden color, add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, coriander, and cumin.  Saute 3-5 minutes.  Add water as needed to keep it from drying out and the spices from burning.

Cook onions until well caramelized

Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir in the yogurt.

Add spinach and yogurt to onions

Mix spinach, onions, and yogurt in saucepan

Add the Paneer back in and cook for another 5 minutes or until heated through.

Add Paneer to spinach mixture

ENJOY!

Saag Paneer and Basmati Rice

For your convenience, here’s a printable version.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe by one of my favorite Food Network cooks: Aarti Sequeira

Tikka Masala Soup

Potlucks are such a wonderful invention.  It’s a time for connecting with old friends and making new friends.  It’s a time for sharing and laughing and eating.  Lots of eating.  I love that I get to try so many wonderful food that people bring.  People bring dishes that are favorites or have special meaning.  That’s the case here, a friend brought a marvelous soup in a slow cooker.  When she lifted the lid, the tantalizing smell brought me straight over.   It’s the first thing I tried and I begged her for the recipe so I could share it with you.  This soup is fabulous, but her story behind it was even better.

Tikka Masala Soup in the slow cooker

She and her husband spent some time visiting their daughter who is a Bible translator in Bangladesh.  While they were there, they visited some privately run schools.  The public school system in Bangladesh is free, but the students are required to purchase their own books and school uniforms.  Some children are so poor, that they cannot attend school simply because they cannot afford these basic requirements.  A charitable organization opened schools that are available to these poverty stricken children.   They run the schools on a shoestring and the teacher is paid a monthly salary of $10.  That’s all it takes to give these kids an excellent education and pave the road to a better life.  Can you even imagine what a blessing that is for these kids and their families?

This soup was inspired by the flavors and culture that they experienced in Bangladesh.

Tikka Masala Soup

 

 

Tikka Masala Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon curry
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon  paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup broth
  • 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup rice
  • 1/3 cup ( 5 oz.) coconut milk

Saute the onion in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, curry, garam masala, and paprika. Continue to saute for 5 more minutes. Move to a crockpot and add the chicken broth, rice, and tomatoes. Mix all together and cook on low for 3-5 hours.
3 tablespoons oil

  • 1 pound Paneer
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the spices and toss the Paneer in the spice blend. Heat the oil until medium high. Add the Paneer and saute for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.
Add the Paneer to the crockpot and cook on low one hour.
Serve garnished with fresh cilantro and yogurt.

Tikka Masala Soup

Paneer Fried Rice

I’m embarrassed to say that my first fried rice recipe consisted of four ingredients: rice, browned hamburger, scrambled eggs, and soy sauce.  Yup, pretty blah.  For years that was what I made and unwittingly called it fried rice.  The fried rice at our favorite restaurant was to me, something unattainable.  I’m thankful that I met an incredible cook who opened my eyes to the secret to making truly delicious fried rice.  She also gave me a bottle of sesame oil, which I immediately used to liberally coat the pan.  She thought I knew better.  I do now.

This recipe is packed full of protein from three different sources: paneer, eggs, and edamame.  It’s a powerhouse of nutrition without being heavy.  I like to change out the vegetables depending on what is in season.  Frozen vegetables can substitute in a pinch.

Paneerfriedrice--4

Paneer Fried Rice

  • 1 lb paneer, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 8 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup edamame
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 1 cup fresh asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 – 8 ounce can sliced water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use low sodium)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Paneerfriedrice--2

Combine the paneer and Sriracha in a gallon ziplock bag.  Gently mix together so that the paneer is coated.  Marinate the paneer in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the brown rice in an oven proof dish and cover with 2 cups boiling water.  Bake covered in the oven for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and fluff the rice with a fork.  Set aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in an extra-large non-stick skillet or wok.  Add the edamame, carrots, and ginger.  Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes.  Add the asparagus and mushrooms and stir-fry until tender-crisp.  Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and cover to keep warm.

Add four more teaspoons of olive oil to the wok and stir-fry the paneer for 5-7 minutes.  Transfer the paneer to the bowl with the vegetables.

Add the last two teaspoons of olive oil to the wok.  Once the oil is heated, add the eggs and lightly scramble, do not overcook.  Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables and paneer.

Add the sesame oil to the wok and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the brown rice.  Cook rice until the grains are coated with oil and warmed.  Add the vegetables, paneer, egg, water chestnuts, and soy sauce.  Heat through.  Top with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Paneerfriedrice--3

 

 

Cashew Butter Paneer

I’m really excited to share this recipe with you today!  This has to be one of my new favorite paneer dishes because of the crispy texture of the paneer and luscious creaminess of the sauce.  It has just the right amount of kick, but that kick is tempered by the yogurt, paneer, and coconut milk.  I am also excited because I found a really good naan at the local Safeway.  I’ve been looking for really good naan because my naan never turns out right.

cashew-butter-paneer-43

Another reason why I love this is that it is so quick, easy, and it includes lots of fresh ingredients for a healthy, satisfying meal.

cashew-butter-paneer-2

 

cashew-butter-paneer-22

cashew-butter-paneer-34

Cashew Butter Paneer

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound Appel Farms Paneer, cubed
  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups roasted cashews (divided)
  • 1 (6 ounce can) tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup Appel Farms yogurt (or Greek Yogurt)
  • 1/2 a small sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons spicy curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons thai red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 cup broccoli florets
  • chopped cilantro, for topping

Instructions

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. Once hot, add the cubed paneer and cook about 2 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels.

In a food processor or high powered blender, add 3/4 cup cashews and the coconut milk. Blend on high until completely smooth and silky, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato paste, yogurt and 1/2 cup water. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

In the same skillet you fried the paneer, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Once hot, cook the onion about 5-8 minutes or until soft and lightly caramelized. Add the garlic, ginger, and saute for one minute.  Add the curry powder, thai red curry paste, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne and salt. Cook one more minute and then stir in the cashew mixture. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and if it seems too thick for your liking, stir in water to thin. Once the sauce is at your desired consistency, stir in the browned paneer and broccoli.  Cook until warmed through and the sauce thickened slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve over a bed of hot basmati or saffron rice (here is my saffron rice recipe) sprinkled with chopped cilantro and 1/4 cup cashews. Top it off with some fresh naan.

cashew-butter-paneer-30
saffron rice

cashew-butter-paneer-41

Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

Panurkey

Panurkey with coleslaw

During the holidays, don’t we want everyone to feel welcome and loved?  People with diet restrictions or special preferences have a hard enough time, but it can be downright awkward to accept a holiday invitation.  We are not vegetarian at our house, but we have friends and family who are.  I love them just as much as our meat loving relatives, so it is that love that inspired me to create Panurkey.

Panurkey has the flavors of a traditional holiday meal, but it is incredibly easy to make.  The potatoes give the Paneer stability, while the main flavor comes from the stuffing.

You don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy Panurkey.  I like to serve Panurkey on “Meatless Mondays.”  I prepare the loaf before work and pop it in the oven when I get home.  It’s a quick, easy, and satisfying weekday meal.

panurkey

Panurkey

Stuffing

  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups dried bread cubes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the onions and celery, saute until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and saute until soft, another 4-5 minutes.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients and toss until well blended.  Set aside.

Paneer

  • 1/2 pound Paneer, grated
  • 2 russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the potatoes into small cubes and steam until soft. Peel them if you like, but I like the rustic texture so I leave the peel on.  Mash the potatoes and mix all the ingredients until it forms a ball that holds together.

Grated Paneer
Paneer is easy to grate in a food processor
Steamed russet potatoes
Steamed russet potatoes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter a large loaf pan.  Press half of the paneer mixture evenly into the bottom of the loaf pan.  Spread the stuffing in an even layer over the paneer mixture.  Press the remainder of the paneer mixture over the stuffing.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until golden brown.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes then invert onto a serving dish.

Serve warm with vegetarian gravy.

Panurkey-(5-of-41)

Panurkey-(15-of-41)

The Paneer Super Team

Let me introduce you to one of the most appreciated teams in the cheese plant. The tall one is Gerrit.  The little one is Maria. Gerrit is John (the cheese maker) and Ruth’s (the Cheese Shop lady) son, and has worked on and off for either the farm or in the cheese room for over 10 years. Maria has been with us for about 4 years, and is a wife and a mom to 2 beautiful daughters.

Maria

This unlikely duo make up the “Paneer Super Team” of our little cheese room. Paneer is an Indian style cheese often used as a meat substitute. People compare it to tofu, but it’s honestly SO much better! When we were younger we used to sneak the odds and ends from the cheese room and climb up into the haymow to nibble on our prizes. To this day, paneer isn’t quite as good unless it’s fresh from the vat!

Maria-2

Making paneer was never a coveted job in the plant. It’s hot, steamy, and takes up most of the morning because the milk can only come gushing through the pipes so fast. Then because of the intense heat of the milk, everything gets very cooked on making clean up rather difficult. Before we had a designated “Paneer Team” I remember people trying to avoid the task and jokingly bribing others to do it.

Production

Not-Gerrit

Paneer is created by heating milk to 175 degrees, and stirring vinegar into the milk to create a frothy white curd. It is then transferred to large stainless steel baskets where heavy plates are placed on top to squeeze all the whey out. After it has cooled it can then be cut and packaged into various sizes and shipped out! It’s the simplest cheese we make here at Appel Farms, but also one of the more physical.

Packaging BOxed-Paneer

We are very thankful for Gerrit and Maria because they come in regularly to complete almost every aspect of this particular cheese. One thing I have learned about cheese production (this is especially true with Paneer), is you spend more time cleaning than actually making cheese. This team ends up spending much of their time scrubbing the ultra-cooked paneer curd off the pasteurizer walls, plates, pipes, paddles… everything! Cheese can be messy, but EVERYTHING must be spotless before moving on to the next task.

Gerritmakingpaneer

Grilled Paneer Skewers

Paneer Skewers with Saffron Rice

In France there are 350 to 400 distinct types of French “Fromage” (cheese) grouped into eight categories. There can be many varieties within each type of cheese, leading some to claim closer to 1,000 different types of French cheese, but they are all called Fromage.  In East India there is only one cheese and that is Paneer.  The word “Paneer” even translates as “Cheese.”  This simple difference in the meaning of a word led to some confusion with a customer one day.

A woman came in and picked up some Paneer.  Then she looked around and noticed the Gouda.

Customer: Is this cheese?

Me: Yes it is!

Customer (looking doubtful): It is Paneer?

Me: No, that is Gouda.

Customer: It isn’t cheese?

Me: Yes, that is cheese.

Customer: Then it is Paneer?

Me: No, it is Gouda.

By this time I had visions of the Abbot and Costello routine, “Who’s on First,” and I started laughing.  The patient woman must have had a similar thought because she started laughing too.  To her, I was saying, “Gouda isn’t cheese, but it is cheese.”

I never heard of Paneer until John started making it and now it’s on the menu at our house at least once a week.  One of my favorite ways to cook it is on the barbecue.

Paneer Skewers

  • Marinade
    • 1 cup yogurt
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
    • 2 teaspoons garam masala
    • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
    • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
    • Salt to taste
  • Skewers
    •  10-12 wooden skewers, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
    • 1 lb paneer
    • 1 yellow pepper
    • 1 orange pepper
    • 1 red pepper
    • 1 red onion

Paneer on the Grill

  1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Cut the paneer, onion and peppers into bite size pieces.  Place the onion and peppers in the bowl with the marinade and toss to coat.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, skewer the paneer and vegetable pieces and grill them on high heat for 10-15 minutes, turning frequently to brown evenly without scorching.
  4. Serve with basmati rice, or my favorite: saffron rice (recipe below).
John grilling Paneer Skewers
John is at the barbecue again!
  • Saffron Rice
    • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
    • 2 tablespoons very hot water
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup pine nuts (or substitute slivered almonds)
    • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups white basmati rice
    • 2 1/4 cups water
    • 1/2 cup golden raisins
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Soften the saffron in the 2 tablespoons hot water in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat.  Fry the pine nuts, onion, and rice, stirring constantly, for 10 to 15 minutes or until the onions are soft and the rice is starting to toast.  Add water, saffron, raisins, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and leave covered until the water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.   Fluff the rice with a fork.