This traditional Indian dish consists of paneer, browned and crisped, served in a flavor-packed spinach sauce, created by pureeing wilted spinach with a variety of lightly toasted aromatics. Never heard of paneer? It’s a mild flavored, fresh cheese (which means it requires no culturing or aging—it’s a cheese you could make at home, similar to ricotta) popular in Indian cuisine. Paneer offers a fantastic semi-firm texture and is a great ingredient for vegetarian cooking, as it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with and provides protein. Toasting the spices in oil adds toasty layers of flavor depth to this rich and saucy dish, and it’s a smart trick to apply anytime you’re using dried spices. Serve the Palak Paneer over basmati rice with plenty of warm naan bread for scooping up every last drop of bit.
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces paneer or Halloumi cheese, cut into 1 1/2-in. cubes
1 serrano chile, halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 ounces fresh spinach
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
2 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-in. pieces
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
Hot cooked rice
Grilled naan (Indian flatbread)
How to Make It
Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add cheese, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer cheese to a plate, and set aside. Add serrano chile, cumin seeds, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and chile is slightly blistered, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in spinach; cook just until wilted. Remove from heat. Transfer spinach mixture to the bowl of a food processor; process until smooth.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in skillet over medium-high. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger, salt, garam masala, and coriander. Cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and water; cook, stirring and scraping to loosen browned bits from bottom of skillet, 2 minutes. Stir in spinach mixture; cook 2 minutes. Stir in cheese, and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve over rice with grilled naan.
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