Monday, July 15, 2013

Oh, Paneer.

Let me tell you about the most amazing cheese in the world; it’s called paneer. I've heard people refer to it as “Indian cottage cheese,” which I feel is a little misleading. I think it is more like a cross between mozzarella and feta. It’s got some give to it, yet it doesn't quite stretch like mozzarella nor crumble like feta. It truly is in a league of its own. You can buy it at an Indian market – it comes in blocks or smaller cubes, and full fat or reduced fat varieties. If you are a cheese lover who has yet to discover paneer in all of its glory, get on it ASAP! Don’t let the tragedy continue.

Jason’s mom introduced me to this little piece of heaven over a year ago. And I was spoiled because it was homemade, can’t beat that! Palak Paneer (spinach and cheese) became a fast favorite of mine. Since going vegan, I have been in a state of mourning because I thought I would never be able to eat it again. Then, lo and behold, one of my co-workers suggested that I replace the paneer in the recipe with tofu. Brilliant! And so I did. The verdict? It’s a win!

 Here is my veganized recipe for Palak Paneer; the original recipe credit goes to Jason’s mom.

Tofu Marinade:
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 ounces (1 block) firm, pressed tofu

Other Ingredients:
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ inch ginger root, chopped finely
Chilies, to taste, optional (if you like it spicy, use thai chilies)
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
16-20 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
Salt, to taste
½ cup plain coconut yogurt

In a bowl, mix together turmeric, chili powder, salt, and canola oil. Drop in the tofu cubes and gently toss, taking care not to break the cubes. Let marinade (10 minutes is fine).

Place a large skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, pour the tofu and marinade into the pan. Fry the tofu cubes, lightly browning each side. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.

Using the same pan, add the onion, ginger, garlic, and chili (if using). Sauté the mixture until it’s evenly toffee-colored, which should take about 15 minutes. If the mixture is drying out and burning, add a couple of tablespoons of water.

Add the garam masala, coriander, and cumin. If you haven’t already, sprinkle a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook, stirring often for 3-5 minutes.

Add the thawed spinach to the onion mixture and stir well. Add a little salt. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the yogurt a little bit at a time, stirring to incorporate. Once the yogurt is well mixed into the spinach, add the tofu. Put the pan back on the heat, cover, and cook until everything is warmed through, about 5 minutes.

*Basmati Rice*Dal*Roti*Vegan Palak Paneer*

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