If you have ever eaten Indian food, chances are that you have had saag paneer. It's one of my favorite dishes—spiced, creamy spinach with chunks of a fresh cheese known as paneer. Paneer is so mild that it can easily be mistaken for tofu, but it has a pleasantly chewy texture that reminds you that it is in fact cheese.
Paneer can be purchased or easily made at home. All you have to do is heat a gallon of whole milk until almost boiling, add the juice of a lemon or two, and remove from the heat. Stir for a bit, and the milk will separate into curds and whey. Strain through cheese cloth, weight and press for an hour or so, and you have paneer.
Monica Bhide makes a great appetizer by pairing mild, creamy paneer with a sweet and spicy chutney in her recipe for Paneer with Orange-Apricot Chutney from Modern Spice. If you cannot find fresh apricots, Bhide recommends substituting 1 1/2 cups fresh mango in its place.
Win 'Modern Spice'
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Modern Spice to give away this week.
- For the Paneer:
- 400-gram/14-ounce paneer slab
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- For the Chutney:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (see Note)
- 4 to 6 fresh apricots, pitted and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
- 1 small green serrano chile, seeded and minced
- 2 cups fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon red chile powder or red chile flakes
- Pinch of saffron
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Table salt
While the paneer rests, prepare the chutney. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it begins to shimmer, add the mustard seeds and cook for about 30 seconds, until they begin to sizzle.
Add the apricots, ginger, chile, orange and lemon juices, chile powder, saffron, and dates. Mix well. Cook over medium heat for about 25 minutes, until the chutney has thickened and the apricots have mostly dissolved. There will be a few pieces left.
Remove from the heat and stir in salt to taste.
Cut each slab of paneer into 9 cubes. Place the warm chutney in an attractive bowl in the center of a platter. Surround with the cubed paneer. Add toothpicks to the paneer pieces and serve.