Friday, May 20, 2016

Palak without the Paneer

Spinach is a great vegetable that is available in the winter (frozen) as well as in the summer (fresh), and it is really affordable. Typically, I’ll prepare fresh spinach sauted with other vegetables but I rarely make it creamed because it seems rather bland done in a conventional, Western way. There is one exception: the palak part of the Indian dish palak (spinach) paneer (soft cheese).   The other day,  I made my own version at home and it will definitely become a staple in my house.

palak

Palak witout the Paneer

  • 2 bags of frozen spinach, thawed, not squeezed
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 Thai chile diced (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 5 to 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 2 cloves 
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek leaves
  • pinch of cinnamon 
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes, about 1-inch pieces 
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave syrup (or sugar)
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup ricotta (optional) 
  1. Put the thawed spinach, the ginger and the thai chili in a blender with 1 cup of water, and puree into a smooth puree. Set aside.
  2. Roughly crush peppercorns, cardamom and cloves in a mortar and pestle and throw out the cardamom skin. If using a spice grinder, remove the cardamom skin and use only the seeds (save the cardamom skin for chai). Add the turmeric, fenugreek leaves, and cinnamon and stir.
  3. Heat a thick-bottomed pan with the heat at medium. Add the spice powder and roast for 1/2 minute to make them fragrant. Add the ghee and wait until it is melted.  Add the chopped onion, and garlic and saute for 3 minutes until translucent. Add the tomatoes and agave, and sauteed for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour the spinach into the pan. Add salt and 1/2 cup water to adjust consistency. You can add a little bit more if you find the sauce is getting pasty.
  5. Once the spinach mixture boils, reduce the heat, and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add garam masala. After 4 to 5 minutes, pour ricotta.
  7. Eat with naan or over rice with a curry, or just as palak.

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