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. 

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