Monday, December 31, 2012

Indian-Style Spinach with Fresh Cheese (Saag Paneer)



Serves 4 to 6
Recipe from Cook's Illustrated and Husband-Tested in Alice’s Kitchen by Maria del Mar Patron-Vasquez

Our daughter-in-law is a fabulous cook.  We think she’s a wonder!  She made this delectable meatless meal for our Christmas dinner this year.  Zowee! The cheese was fun to make.  It was delicious and can be made a few days in advance.  If mustard greens aren’t available, substitute with spinach.

CHEESE:
3 quarts whole-milk

3 cups buttermilk

1 Tablespoon salt


SPINACH SAUCE:
1 (10-ounce) bag spinach, rinsed

¾ pound mustard greens, stemmed and rinsed
or ¾ pound fresh spinach
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 onion, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 jalapeño chili, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup roasted cashews, chopped coarse

1 cup water

1 cup buttermilk

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1. FOR THE CHEESE: Line colander with triple layer of cheesecloth and set in sink. Bring milk to boil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Whisk in buttermilk and salt, turn off heat, and let stand for 1 minute. Pour milk mixture through cheesecloth and let curds drain for 15 minutes.
2. Pull edges of cheesecloth together to form pouch. Twist edges of cheesecloth together, firmly squeezing out as much liquid as possible from cheese curds. Place taut, twisted cheese pouch between 2 large plates and weigh down top plate with heavy Dutch oven. Set aside at room temperature until cheese is firm and set, at least 45 minutes. Chill in the fridge.  (We chilled it overnight.)
Remove cheesecloth and cut cheese into 1/2-inch pieces. (Left uncut, cheese can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
3. FOR THE SPINACH SAUCE: Place spinach in large microwave-safe bowl, cover, and microwave until wilted, about 3 minutes. When cool enough to handle, chop enough spinach to measure 1/3 cup and set aside. Transfer remaining spinach to blender and wipe out bowl. Place mustard greens in now-empty bowl, cover, and microwave until wilted, about 4 minutes. When cool enough to handle, chop enough mustard greens to measure 1/3 cup and transfer to bowl with chopped spinach. Transfer remaining mustard greens to blender.
4. Meanwhile, melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds, coriander, paprika, cardamom, and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onion and 3/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeño; cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and just beginning to stick to pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook mixture until pan is dry and tomatoes are beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.
5. Transfer half of onion mixture to blender with greens. Add half of cashews and water; process until smooth, about 1 minute. Return purée to skillet.
6. Return skillet to medium-high heat, stir in chopped greens and buttermilk, and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until flavors have blended, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in cheese cubes and cook until just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle with remaining cashews and cilantro, and serve.

Notes To ensure that the cheese is firm, wring it tightly in step 2 and be sure to use two plates that nestle together snugly. Use commercially produced cultured buttermilk in this recipe. Serve with basmati rice and Naan.

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