I had a bunch of greens that needed to be used up, so I looked around for a recipe that would disguise them as much as possible, because <confession> I really don’t care that much for greens.</confession>. So, here’s my version of Saag Paneer. You can, of course, use spinach, which is the traditional way of preparing this dish. I used greens from kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, and beets, plus kale. You can make the paneer ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to five days.
1/2 gallon of milk (preferably whole)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds or ground cumin
1 tsp coriander or garam masala
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp vegetable oil
16-24 oz greens
1/2 cup coconut milk
First, get the milk and 1 tsp salt heating in a large saucepan on medium heat. Stir it every couple of minutes. Once the milk is boiling, stir in the lemon juice, and stir every minute or so for about five minutes while the curdling takes place. Place three layers of cheesecloth or a towel in a strainer, and if you want to save the whey, put the strainer on top of a pot or other container. After enough milk has curdled that the surface doesn’t have any gaps in it, pour it into the strainer. Twist the corners of the cheesecloth or towel to squeeze out as much liquid as possible and let it drain for either an hour (if using cheesecloth) or half an hour (if using a towel).
While the paneer is draining, make the spice puree. Mix the water, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander or garam masala, red pepper, paprika, turmeric, and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt in a blender until pureed. (I had a hard time finding something that would blend such a small amount, so just do the best you can. A mortar and pestle might do the trick.) Set it aside when blended.
After the paneer is drained, wrap it in plastic and press it for at least half an hour, and preferably an hour. I put it between two cutting boards and placed a heavy book on top. During this time, you can steam the greens. Make sure they are pretty soft – you don’t want your saag paneer to be crunchy. Let them cool a bit, then chop finely.
Now you are ready to pull it all together! Cube the paneer into bite-size pieces. Heat the oil in a deep skillet or large saucepan on medium-high heat. Fry the paneer for about five minutes – until it turns a nice golden brown on at least a couple of sides. Remove it and drain it on paper towels. Add the spice puree to the pan and let it saute for one or two minutes. Then add the greens, paneer, and coconut milk, and heat through. If needed, add some warm water a tablespoon at a time until you are pleased with the consistency.
Serve with basmati rice. Makes 2 or 3 servings, depending on how hungry you are.