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Traditional Saag Paneer

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Traditional Saag Paneer

The complexity and balance of spices that you get from a plate of Indian cuisine is just healing. It can make you all “kumbaya,” full of peace and serenity. Yep. I said the same thing on my Vegan Not Your Amma’s Saag Paneer… but it is still true.

In one of my favorite studies, Traditional Chinese Medicine, when discussing specific foods beneficial for specific conditions, Indian cuisine comes up A LOT. All those anti-inflammatory spices and vegetables, so good for the body and the spirit.

If you make this dish, take your time. Breathe it in. Build your flavors. Enjoy the happiness.

Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer

This is based on Aarti Sequeria’s Saag Paneer. I like tomato added in, and the method is changed up just a bit for a different texture. Follow the link to get Aarti’s delicious recipe and her garam masala.

We will be jumping right into spice town! Start by combining turmeric, cayenne, salt, and 3 T oil into a bowl to form a loose paste.

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Cut paneer into uniform-sized squares, one inch or less.

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Gently toss paneer cubes with paste until it is well coated. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.

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If you are not pureeing your spinach, chop spinach and set aside. Otherwise you can leave it whole.

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Build flavors in your skillet.

In an oiled skillet, saute onions until tender.

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Take the time to caramelize these onions. This is key!

Because there are no Fenugreek leaves in this recipe, we are missing that slightly sweet maple flavor. Caramelizing the onion adds a bit of sweetness. If you really want to sweeten up the dish, you could probably add a bit of maple syrup… I haven’t tried it.

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Add a little water, as needed to allow onions to slowly cook. Let the water cook off.

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Add in chile, if using. Stir.

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Add ginger and garlic. Stir. Cook for a couple of minutes; do not allow garlic to burn.

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Add tomato. Cook for a few minutes, until tomatoes are well incorporated.

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Add spices (garam masala, coriander, cumin). Cook for about another 5 minutes. if you want a creamy texture, you can stir in some coconut milk.

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At this point, you can set this mixture aside and sear your paneer. In a hot skillet, brown paneer on all sides. No need to add oil tot he pan; there is enough in the paste.

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When beautifully browned, remove from pan and set aside.

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Add spinach to the skillet with just enough water to barely wilt it. Do not overcook your spinach.

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When it is just wilted and still bright green, using a blender or food processor, puree the spinach. Alternatively, you can omit the puree, if prefered.

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Return spinach to the skillet and add coconut milk or heavy cream, to taste. Add salt, to taste.

My coconut milk was in the fridge. It is very think and delicious… full fat.

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Stir in onion-tomato mixture.

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Add paneer. Serve immediately.

Saag Paneer

A slice of flatbread is sooooooo good with this. 🙂

Saag Paneer

Based on Aarti Sequeria’s Saag Paneer. I like tomato added in, and change up the method just a bit for texture. Follow the link to get Aarti’s recipe and her garam masala.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons nonGMO canola oil or melted coconut oil, plus more for cooking
  • about 12 oz paneer, purchased or make your own
  • 1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T peeled and minced ginger
  • optional: 1 large green Serrano chile, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala, (purchased or homemade, see recipe below)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (about 10 oz)
  • about 1/4 – 1/2 cup coconut milk, or heavy cream

Method

Combine turmeric, cayenne, n. yeast, salt, and 3 T oil in a bowl to form a loose paste. Cut tofu into uniform-sized squares, one inch or less. Gently toss tofu with paste until it is well coated. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients. This gives it a few minutes to marinate.

In an oiled skillet, saute onions until tender. Add a little water, as needed to allow onions to slow cook and caramelize. Add in chile, if using. Stir. Add ginger and garlic. Stir. Cook for a couple of minutes; do not allow garlic to burn. Add tomato. Cook for a few minutes, until tomatoes are well incorporated. Add spices (garam masala, coriander, cumin). Cook for about another 5 minutes.

At this point, you can set this mixture aside and sear your paneer. In a hot skillet, brown paneer on each side. No need to add oil to the pan; there is enough in the paste. When beautifully browned, remove from pan and set aside.

Add spinach to the skillet with just enough water to barely wilt it. Do not overcook your spinach. When it is just wilted and still bright green, using a blender or food processor, puree the spinach. Alternatively, you can omit the puree, if prefered. Return spinach to the skillet and add coconut milk or heavy cream, to taste. Add salt, to taste. Stir in onion-tomato mixture.

Add paneer. Serve immediately.

Note: In a traditional ssag, fenugreek is used. Fenugreek leaves have a sweet maple flavor. Without fenugreek, we are incorporating some sweetness by caramelizing the onion.

Garam Masala

This Indian spice mix varies from region to region, and even from cook to cook. Some add in other flavors, like rose, or whatever they happen to like. In its essence this should be a blend of warming spices, those that accelerate the metabolism and wake up your taste buds!

You can purchase a prepared blend, or make your own!

Julie Sahni’s Garam Masala

This beautifully balanced traditional blend is from her book: Indian Regional Classics: Fast, Fresh, and Healthy Home Cooking 

Yield: Makes 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3-inch stick cinnamon, broken up
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron (optional)

Method

Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet, smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.

Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months.

Enjoy!

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