Thursday, June 21, 2012

Palak Paneer

When I was a kid, my favorite cartoon was Popeye the Sailor. I must have seen all the episodes, even the first ones that were black and white. I even had a Popeye measuring chart that my parents put up in my room...we didn't see much change on that chart after the five foot mark though :-/. Anyways, my parents would ask me what I would do so I could be as strong as Popeye and I would always respond with "I'm going to eat my spinach!" As such, Palak Paneer (a.k.a. Spinach with Homemade Cheese) was, and still is, one of my favorite Indian dishes. Unfortunately, palak paneer is not the healthiest of dishes due to ingredients such as paneer (homemade Indian cheese) and heavy whipping cream. My mom, in an effort to help my sister and I avoid childhood obesity, substituted skim milk and extra firm tofu which cut down on the fat tremendously. Needless to say, my sister and I, as children, could not tell the difference between real paneer and tofu as our immature palates had not developed a taste for the yummy goodness that is paneer. My recipe below includes my mom's substitutes of extra firm tofu and soy milk but if you do want to make the traditional Palak Paneer, ready-made paneer can be found at most Indian grocery stores and you can always go the extra mile and make your own paneer via Show Me the Curry (Homemade Paneer - Indian Cheese).

Palak Paneer
recipe adapted from Show Me the Curry (my changes are in italics)


Spinach - 1, 16oz pkt chopped, frozen (I used a 9oz package of fresh spinach)
Paneer- 7 oz  (I used half of a package of extra-firm tofu)
Oil – 3 tbsp
Onions – 2 med, minced (I only used one onion)
Ginger – 1″ pc, minced
Garlic – 4 cloves, minced
Water – 1/2 cup (I omitted this because I used fresh spinach)
Tomatoes – 2 large (pureed) (I just chopped the tomatoes)
Garam Masala - 2 tsp
Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
Coriander Powder – 2 tsp
Red Chili Powder – to taste (I used 2 tsp for extra heat)
Salt - to taste
Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp
Heavy Whipping Cream – 8 tbsp or to taste (I used 2 tbsp of low-fat Soy Milk)
Milk – to taste (optional) (I omitted this because I used Soy Milk for the above ingredient)


Heat 2 tbsp Oil in a medium pan on high heat. Once Oil is hot, add in the Onions and let the onions cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add Ginger and Garlic and mix, cooking for another 5 minutes. 
Add the Tomates, and mix to combine all ingredients. Cover and cook the mixture for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the ingredients have softened.

While the Onion, Ginger, Garlic, Tomato mixture is cooking, chop the spinach and set aside. Add the Garam Masala, Cumin Powder, Coriander Powder, Chili Powder, Turmeric Powder, and Salt. Mix to combine and then add the fresh, chopped Spinach. Mix well and cook for about 10 minutes to let the spinach absorb all the spices.

While the mixture is cooking, take the Tofu and squeeze out any excess water. Cut the Tofu into cubes and set aside.

Add the Soy Milk to the mixture and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the cubed Tofu and mix gently so the Tofu remains intact. Serve warm with Naan, Chapati, Paratha, or Rice. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Welcome to Salt as Needed, a blog about food, recipes, photos, and stories. My first story is about a Gujarati dish that you won't find in any Indian restaurant...Papri No Lot [pronounced loat and defined as "dough"]. I have been eating Papri no lot (dough) for as long as I remember because my parents enjoyed it as much as my sister and I did. Papri is a crisp fried dough wafer made from, you guessed it, papri dough. Every winter, when the heaters were cranking out lots of dry hot air, my parents would decide that it was time to make papri, a process that entailed staying up late, eating midnight snacks of papri dough , and basically bonding with my parents. Usually after dinner, my mother would start boiling water, grinding up green chili peppers and getting the hand cranked grinder out. My dad would knead and then run the papri dough through the grinder until it was soft and pliable. Next, my mom would start rolling meatball sized balls that my sister and I had the job of flattening out into thin disks with this squisher machine [I honestly have no idea what it is called]. Once the papri was flattened, my mom would stack it up and my sister and I then got to lay it out on sheets to dry, which took about two days to dry completely. Unbeknownst to my parents, my sister and I would "accidentally" rip some of the papri and then consume the evidence :-). Hot papri dough is the best! Anyways, papri is typically baked in the oven or microwave or fried and then served with a Gujarati rice dish called Khichdi, but that's a story for another day. Papdi no lot is the perfect dish to make when you are low on time but really want something filling that reminds you of your childhood. I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as my family and I do.

My Mom's Papri No Lot
(makes approx. 4-6 servings)

3 cups Water
1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 tbsp. Carom Seeds
1 Green Chili, finely grated (may need two if you like it spicy)
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
2 tbsp. Oil
1 cup Rice Flour

Bring the water, cumin and carom seeds to a boil in a medium saucepan. After the water has turned slightly yellow from the seeds, about 5 minutes, add the oil and the grated green chili and let the mixture boil for another 10 minutes. Next, add the rice flour and stir out any lumps, continually stirring while the mixture cooks, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cover, letting the dough cook and steam, about 10-15 minutes depending on the consistency that you prefer. I prefer really soft, so I let it cook for at least 15 minutes, sometimes more. Serve warm with a drizzle of oil.