Get some good (fresh) spices and make this often! Try chickpeas instead of making the cheese for a flavorful vegan option.
Palak Paneer via 101cookbooks.com
1 quart whole full-fat milk (avoid ultra-pasteurized milk as it won't curdle)
3-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
(Or 1 cup of ricotta cheese)
1 pound spinach, rinsed
3+ tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 tablespoon of ground mustard (or to taste)
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
1 thumb peeled ginger, grated
scant 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
scant 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed (or ground)
1 teaspoon coriander, crushed (or ground)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fine grain salt
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon garam masala
*I used only ground spices in the video
Pour the milk into a large pot and place over medium heat. Bring barely to a simmer and add the lemon juice, stir well, and continue to heat. The milk should begin to curdle, and if it doesn't, add more lemon juice a splash at a time. Remove from heat, and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes. Drain using a fine mesh strainer, or cheese cloth, press out as much moisture as possible, and allow to cool. [or, skip this part and just stir in ricotta cheese later in the recipe. Purists may rip me a new one for suggesting this, but it makes the recipe so much more doable, especially if you are new to cooking.]
Place another pot of water over high heat, and bring to a boil. Salt well and add the spinach to the boiling water, and blanch for just a flash, 15-20 seconds. Drain, run under cool water - it should be bright green. Use a blender or food processor to puree, and set aside.
In the meantime, cut the paneer into small pieces, and in a frying pan over medium heat, fry the cheese in a generous splash of ghee or clarified butter until golden brown. Set aside. [If using ricotta, don't try to shape it and fry it. It doesn't work!]
Heat the remaining ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot and gently saute the onions until golden. Add the mustard seeds (if using) and cook until they pop. Otherwise, add the ground mustard with the other spices. Dial back the heat and add the garlic, ginger, chile flakes, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. Stir together for a few minutes and add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 10-20 minutes. Add the garam masala and the pureed spinach and cook for another ten minutes. Serve topped with the paneer, toasted cashews and/or microgreens.
A quick note about garam masala. It may seem like an exotic spice blend to keep around, especially if you don’t eat a lot of Indian food. But this recipe is so flavorful and otherwise so easy and accessible, that you should be making it often to get a good dose of greens regularly. So, consider investing in a good garam masala.
If you aren’t doing the cheese part, you’re done! I think you can easily add in chickpeas if you wanted. And you’ll serve it with basmati rice. I’m curious about how it would work as a shakshuka situation, where you crack in some eggs for that last part. Someone should try that and let me know!