Saag Paneer

Paneer, a ricotta-like ingredient, is a mainstay of Indian cooking. Chef Saran shows you how to cook the spinach and paneer separately before bringing them together with a flavorful tempering oil.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 30 min
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Ingredients

Paneer

1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese

Saag

20 ounces fresh baby spinach

5 tablespoons Canola oil, divided

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

6 dried red chilies

10 green cardamom pods

10 whole cloves

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon asafoetida, optional, available at Indian specialty stores or online

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

1/2 cup fenugreek leaves, chopped, fresh or dried

Salt to taste

Tempering Oil

2 tablespoons ghee, or canola oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 dried red chilies

1/4 teaspoon asafoetida, optional

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. For the paneer: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spread ricotta cheese in a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper so it's about the thickness of a French fry. Bake for 50 minutes.
  2. For the saag: In a large pot, bring two inches of water to a boil. Add the spinach, cover, and steam until wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain and place in a food processor, then purée until smooth; set aside. Add 2 tablespoons canola oil to a wok or kadai, then add cumin, chilies, fennel, cloves, cardamom and asafoetida. Turn heat to medium to “bloom” the spices until they are fragrant and jumping, about 5 minutes. Add ginger; stir and continue cooking until aroma is released and its texture is slightly crispy, 1-2 minutes. Add puréed spinach (with 1-2 tablespoons of water, optional, to remove the spinach from the food processor). Add salt and continue mixing; then turn off the heat, cover, and set aside.
  3. Add the fenugreek and 2 tablespoons canola oil to a small skillet and place over medium heat to roast. Add 1-2 tablespoons water; stir and continue cooking until it sizzles and releases a slightly bitter aroma, 2 minutes. Add to spinach mixture, stir and set aside. Remove the paneer from the oven and cut into 1-inch squares.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to a nonstick skillet; over medium heat, fry the paneer cubes in a single layer until crispy, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. For the tempering oil: In the small saucepan, heat the ghee over medium heat; then add cumin, fennel, chilies, and asafoetida and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon of water (to keep the cayenne from burning) and set aside.
  5. Place saag in a serving bowl, then top with paneer cubes, followed by more spinach. Spoon tempering oil over the top before serving.
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