I enjoy teaching Indian classes at The Chopping Block the most because of the aromas of all the spices being cooked in the kitchen. Plus, I like to EAT Indian food!
I just taught the Indian Vegetarian Feast class in which we made Samosas with Cilantro Chutney, Tomato Dal Soup and Palak Paneer (Spinach Curry with Homemade Fresh Cheese) with Steamed Basmati Rice. YUM! The students seemed to agree that the Tomato Dal Soup was their favorite dish of the day. I thoroughly enjoyed the Palak Paneer. One of my favorite things about cooking is making something spectacular out of only a few ingredients. Making the Paneer (or any homemade cheese) amazes me, not only by the flavor, but just how simple it is to create something with only 3 ingredients: milk, lemon juice and salt.
The recipe for the Palak Paneer is fairly involved and requires multiple steps, but the end result is SO worth the effort. Here is the recipe the students created in class. If you feel a little overwhelmed, sign up for one of the two remaining Indian Vegetarian Feast classes coming up this month.
Lincoln Square – Monday, October 22
Merchandise Mart – Thursday, October 25.
Palak Paneer (Spinach Curry with Homemade Fresh Cheese)
Yield: 4-6 servings
Active time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Start to finish: 2 hours, 15 minutes
For the paneer:
5 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon fine salt
fresh lemon juice
2 bunches spinach (about 1 pound), stems discarded
1/2 cup water
4 garlic cloves, minced
One 2-inch-long piece ginger, freshly grated
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 plum tomatoes, medium dice
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Steamed basmati rice
1. To prepare the paneer, bring the milk to a full boil in a large heavy pot, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and lemon juice, and remove from the heat. Gently stir around the edges as the milk separates until the curds collect in the center. Let sit for about 2 minutes.
2. Pour the mixture into a colander lined with a triple layer of dampened cheesecloth. Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth, twisting gently to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Wrap the cheese tightly in the cheesecloth, and then wrap in a kitchen towel.
3. Transfer the package to a bowl and weigh it down with heavy object such as a bowl filled with water or a large can. Let stand at room temperature until firm, about 1 hour.
4. While the cheese is draining, prepare the spinach: Place the spinach and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan. Cook, covered, over medium-high heat until wilted and tender, about 2 minutes. Once the spinach is tender, transfer it with all the liquid to a food processor and coarsely puree. Set aside in a bowl.
5. Place the minced garlic, grated ginger and 2 tablespoons of water in the food processor and process until it forms a paste. Set aside.
6. When the paneer is ready, pour off any liquid that has accumulated in the bowl and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes.
7. Heat a large, nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the grapeseed oil. Brown the paneer in 2 batches, turning gently to avoid breaking it up. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the paneer to paper towel-lined plate, leaving the oil behind in the pan.
8. Reduce the heat to medium and add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, allspice and cinnamon stick to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
9. Add the onions and sauté, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved garlic and ginger paste, and cook until fragrant and almost dry, about 2 minutes.
10. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened, about 4 to 6 minutes.
11. Fold in the spinach puree and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, until thickened and almost all of liquid is evaporated, about 2-4 minutes.
12. Add the cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Gently stir in the browned paneer and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 1 minute more.
13. Serve the palak paneer over steamed basmati rice.