Friday, November 14, 2008

Spinach with Indian Fresh Cheese (Page 576)


  • Date: Wednesday, November 5, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I have many great supporters of this project out there, and some have even been so kind as to send me gifts of hard-to-find ingredients and tools. Last spring, blog reader David offered to send me some items off my Gourmet Project Wishlist all the way from England. So, he carefully packed up some juniper berries, black mustard seeds, asafetida powder, etc... and sent this wonderful package of ingredients to me. Well, customs was having none of that. They ripped open my package, apparently to inspect it, and decided, for whatever reason, that the asafetida powder was not going to make the trip all the way to my home. This stinky spice comes from the dried gum resin of giant fennel plants. It certainly isn't banned in the US, so my only guess is that either (a) customs was worried about me stinking up Indiana with my stinky spice, or (b) they thought David was trying to send me drugs, cleverly disguised as stinky asafetida powder. In any event, they stole my gift and I was not happy. Fast forward about four months, and I still hadn't located any asafetida powder in Bloomington. Sure, I could have ordered some online, but after my previous experience with asafetida powder in the mail, I was hesitant to do so. A few weeks ago though I was visiting Brad and Deniz in Chicago and we went to an Indian grocery store there. I happily found some asafetida powder and brought it back with me to Indiana. Finally, I had all of the ingredients to make some of the Indian dishes in The Book! So, last week, my special gentleman and I made this version of Palak Paneer, using my precious asafetida powder.

This recipe wasn't difficult, but it did involve many steps. I first made the two component recipes: Ghee, and Paneer. Then I started by blanching and peeling some pearl onions (pearl onions are a huge culinary pet peeve of mine: why not just use chopped onion, which is SO much less work?). I cubed my homemade paneer and my special gentleman marinated it in a mixture of turmeric and water. In the meantime we cooked and then pureed the spinach which would become the base for the dish. I then mashed together fresh ginger garlic until they formed a paste. Meanwhile, my special gentleman heated a truly frightening quantity of ghee and browned the marinated paneer cubes in it. After removing the paneer he added the pearl onions then the garlic paste, to the skillet. Eventually we stirred in a mixture of spices (including the asafetida!), some tomatoes that we had peeled and chopped, and the spinach puree. The whole thing got cooked for a bit, then the paneer was stirred back in. Season and serve.

This dish didn't really look all that appealing, but actually it was quite good! The flavors were excellent, and the browned paneer cubes were extremely tasty. I had a take-em-or-leave-em feeling about the pearl onions (and since they were a pain in the ass to peel, I vote for leave-em). Palak paneer isn't generally my favorite Indian dish, but I was surprised by how much I liked this version. My special gentleman was also very taken with it (the leftovers disappeared long before I had an opportunity to have any). It definitely wasn't a dinner that was super quick to make, but if you are interesting in making an Indian dish at home, I would recommend giving this recipe a try.

Here is the recipe.

My apologies for the blog silence this week. To say that this week has been busy would be an enormous understatement... Things should be calming down in the near future though (I hope!)


David said...

Glad you made a dish with asafetida but sorry it wasn't with mine. What a travesty of justice. Anyway, I guess I won't send any more white powders in little containers to the US.

Interesting you made your own paneer, I buy it normally. Maybe I'll try to make the paneer too.
The wife loves it.

Did the rest of the spices get to you (I hope I packaged enough, it wa basically what I had in the house).

all the best


David said...

As an addendum, I reread the post and suddenly was struck by the thought that someone imagined snorting the asafetida which has to be just the worse thing possible.

My nose is twitching in fear at the thought.

Teena said...

David: You should try the paneer recipe. It was super-easy and really good.

Yes, the rest of the spices made it intact. Thanks!!!

Wow, snorting asafetida is quite a thought. Ha ha ha...