Sunday, September 26, 2010

PFB#2: Saag Paneer

Growing up, I wasn't exposed to many cuisines besides good ol' American and that of my heritage--Polish and Italian.   Part of this was because I was a bit picky ;)  But I can't recall seeing a Mexican or Indian restaurant.  And we never got Chinese food, either (not that it would've been authentic!).


I had cooked in undergrad, but many of the meals included "Helper" in their title, involved grilled cheese, or came out of a blue box.   When I moved to Philadelphia for grad school, I was old (mature?) enough to start trying new things.  It was here that I was introduced to Indian, Thai, African and Burmese to name a few.  Since then I've also fallen in love with the Ethiopian and Afghan meals I've had.  Maybe it was coincidence, but just as I started to experience new cuisines, I also had the desire to create new things in my kitchen.


For the second challenge of Project Food Blog, we were to recreate a classic dish from a cuisine.  I decided there was no time like the present to tackle my favorite Indian dish-- saag paneer.  I was won over as soon as I tasted this dish, although I've never tried to make it at home.   I haven't done too much Indian cooking, but I'm always a little intimidated by long lists of spices, and paneer isn't normally found in any grocery store.

Bin bhuna hua garam masala (untoasted)

Now, which recipe to use??  I turned to a cookbook I've heard good things about recently, 660 Curries.  You can find the recipe here.   After a trip to the Indian grocery store in Coolidge Corner, I was armed with the paneer and spices required to execute.   A trip to Whole Foods for mustard greens came up short, so I picked up a small bunch of dandelion greens to use instead (both are slightly bitter).

Punjabi garam masala (toasted)

One thing I found unique was that Iyer calls for two kinds of garam masala.  One is untoasted, used early on in the cooking process.  The other is toasted prior to grinding and then used to finish the dish.   I prepared these the night before, as they can be kept in an airtight container in the dark for a couple months.  My kitchen smelled pretty amazing after toasting the one with cinnamon!   I also pan-fried the paneer cubes ahead of time so they were ready to go, but there's some down time when cooking down the spinach during which you could do this.


I have to say, the flavors of the saag paneer I've had made me think that this would take awhile to cook.  However the tender spinach and well-executed spice blends proved me wrong :)  I also didn't need to stand right over it the entire time, which I liked.  The one sub I made was to use 1/2c milk mixed with ~2T cornstarch instead of heavy cream.  I probably cut back on the oil inadvertantly, too, as I eye-balled the amounts.


I served it with some naan, and thoroughly enjoyed every bite!!    For this dish, I cooked with no less than three things I had never used before:  paneer, cardamom pods and dandelion greens :)

What's your favorite Indian dish??   Or favorite ethnic cuisine??

29 comments:

5 Star Foodie said...

The saag paneer sounds terrific! I can just imagine the wonderful aroma in your kitchen when toasting the spices! Great entry!

elra said...

Good luck with the second project Shannon !

I love Indian food, we just came back from Indian (Goan) restaurant in San Francisco. I had amazing Lamb Vindaloo, it becomes my favorite now.

Your saag paneer looks so delicious!

Joanne said...

I was seriously sheltered when it came to food until college. Probably mostly because my parents are INSANELY picky eaters. Now, though, Indian is one of my favorites and saag paneer always makes me happy. This sounds delicious!

I wish I could find a cheap place that sells paneer around here...at whole foods it's crazy expensive!

Faith @ lovelyascharged said...

I grew up with SO much Indian food (which is funny because my family is Italian!). Saag was one of my absolute favorites! GREAT looking dish Shannon!

Monet said...

Unfortunately, I didn't grow up with much Indian food (my mom had a sensitive stomach) but in recent years, I've come to love the cuisine! You did a wonderful job with your paneer. It looks great!

Elina (Healthy and Sane) said...

Saag paneer is awesome. So cool that you were able to recreate it at home from scratch!

Lindsay and James Cotter said...

I love ethiopian food as well! So much flavor. Great recipe. Have you had made Injera bread before? its like Naan but BETTER!

RhodeyGirl said...

This looks DELICIOUS.

We Are Not Martha said...

This looks awesome!! Isn't cooking with cadamom pods fun, too?! Haha we did it for our dish, also.

Yay for round 2!! I hope we all make it to round 3!

Sues

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

The saag paneer looks wonderful! You've got my vote for #PFB2010!

Kelly said...

Gorgeous. You have my vote. I love Saag Paneer and your version looks fantastic. I love hearing how none of us got any interesting ethnic food growing up. If I had children that would definitely change!

stephchows said...

WOW it looks so rich and flavorful! I can only imagine how amazing it smelled!

Tamanna said...

ohh yummmm!!! i love saag and adding paneer to it is a heavenly tasting combination

Natalie said...

congrats on advancing! impressive dish--i love indian food and have yet to try making it at home!

Heather said...

Saag paneer is pretty much my favorite thing in life. :)

Shelly Borrell said...

I sooooo want to make this sometime. It's my favorite at an Indian restaurant I often go to. Yours looks great. You got my vote!
Shelly :)

Reeni said...

This turned out excellent Shannon! I find Indian food a little intimidating too - but I read so many Indian blogs that I'm slowly becoming more comfortable with it. I wish you the best in the competition!

Kerstin said...

Yay, looks fabulous - wish I had a big bowl right now :) Off to vote!!

FOODalogue said...

Nice entry and documentation.

Lisa said...

Saag paneer is one of my favorite dishes! I almost went this route for my post as well. You definitely inspire me to make it!

KELLY said...

Great job! I've never eaten saag paneer, but now I want to try it.

Kelly
Sounding My Barbaric Gulp!

P.S. I made pho!
http://www.barbaricgulp.com/2010/09/project-food-blog-classics-challenge-2.html

jacobskitchen said...

Great post! Looks delicious. I voted for you!

Good luck! =)

You can check out my PFB post at :http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/864

notyet100 said...

looks so yum,..feel like eating this now,..

culinaryimage said...

I love saag Paneer. it's so tasty and I especially like the cheese which is so good. I made once a while ago it was a lot of fun, especially making the cheese. Nice post!

Beth said...

This looks terrific. My favourite ethnic food is Thai, but Moroccan and Indian are great too.

Queen of Cuisine said...

Saag paneer is great stuff- good job with it. I made my own paneer once- you have my vote.

Lick My Spoon said...

I usually make saag with tofu but will now have to try making it with paneer. Have you ever made Naan before? Thank you for sharing! You got my vote!

Lick My Spoon

Casey Angelova said...

Looks great! I love Indian food! Good luck with round 2!

Kat said...

I absolutely love Saag Paneer! I will definitely have to keep this recipe on file. Good luck on the competition!

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