Expanding Culinary Borders

I grew up on Indian food. Not so much in my early years, but in high school, a large number of my friends were of Indian descent, and some of my favorite memories are of Friday nights in their homes, seated in a big blanket eating homemade Indian food with my cross country team. It was exotic, spicy, aromatic, and delicious, a wonderful way for us high schoolers to get to know our friends’ heritage and to eat some amazing food. A vegetarian and often anemic, I quickly came to love Saag Paneer ( a dish made with spinach and homemade Indian cheese) for its delicious, creamy, flavors and the fact that its iron content made me feel great when I ate it, still does. I have eaten it dozens of times over the years, but never in my life have I attempted to make it.

If you read my blog often, you know that I cook frequently but that most of my food is fairly simple. I am learning to take risks, and advancing to the next round in Project Food Blog provided the perfect excuse. I was going to make Saag Paneer.

The timeline for this post was short, so I mustered up my 50th wind for the week and headed to the grocery store straight after work. I had an idea in my head of what the ingredients would be, and I consulted a few websites for the others.

I thought about trying to buy already-made Paneer, soft cheese popular in Indian cooking, but then realized my post wouldn’t be much without it, so I took the leap and decided to make it myself using an incredibly easy recipe from All Recipes. For the Saag part, I loosely followed a recipe from the Food Network.

red chili milk and buttermilkimage
I tried to keep my ingredients local. The hot pepper, onion, garlic, butter, and buttermilk were all from Massachusetts or somewhere else in New England.

 

Saag10 ounces of spinach1 TBS curry powder

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 red chili pepper, finely diced

3 TBS grated ginger

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 cup buttermilk

5 TBS ghee, clarified butter made by heating butter until a boil, then filtering out the white foam, or milk solids

Paneer1/2 gallon whole milk4 cups buttermilk

Since I was most nervous about the cheese, I started with that and found that it could not be easier. Boiling milk, slowly streaming in buttermilk, straining it in cheesecloth, and allowing the packed curds to cool was all it took.

buttermilkmaking Paneer cheese  

 making Paneer making Paneer

 Paneer

I was hungry, and it was difficult for me to not eat the whole ball of cheese in all of its fresh, creamy deliciousness. I flattened the cheese out and allowed it to cool so that I could later cut it into cubes.

The spinach ended up being easy as well. I made the ghee by bringing butter to a boil, the pouring it through a fine mesh strainer which got all of the white solids out, leaving behind a clarified butter. In that ghee, I sautéed the onion, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper. Meanwhile, the spinach cooked down in a small bit of water. Once the spinach had wilted down sufficiently, I added it to the flavorful ghee mixture, tossed it all around, then turned the heat off before adding the yogurt and buttermilk.

ghee  spinach

spinach Saag Paneer

I topped the spinach with cubes of cheese. The recipe called for me to fry them, but they were so delicious on their own, I wanted to preserve those flavors. 

Saag Paneer

This dish turned out so well! It was creamy, slightly spicy, a little tangy, and warm, cozy, comfort food. I am glad that I took the leap, and like with baking, I am learning that even dishes that seem complicated are easy if you have all of the ingredients you need.

Thank you to all who voted for me in the first round of Project Food Blog. I never imagined being advanced to the next round, but I was thrilled and so happy to have the chance to take this culinary journey to India. Best wishes to all of the contestants!

Do you have a favorite dish that seems far too daunting for you to make?

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Tags: foodbuzz, Indian Food, Saag Paneer

  1. Brian @ A Thought For Food’s avatar

    I was SO close to making paneer! But I decided after doing the ricotta cheese last week, I would move on to something else. This looks and sounds fantastic! I’m such a fan of Indian cuisine… so similar to my other favorites (Israeli, Afghan). Plus, i just love using bread as a way to pick up my food. Great post and congrats to making it to round 2, my friend!

    Reply

  2. Simply Life’s avatar

    wow I am SO impressed you made this!

    Reply

  3. Raija’s avatar

    YOU MADE CHEESE! WOOHOO!!

    Reply

  4. Kath’s avatar

    I love Saag Paneer, but I never thought of making it myself. You make it look very easy – I may have to try it. Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply

  5. Emily’s avatar

    Wow, great job Megan! I actually got a little nervous when you wrote that you were going to make the paneer (I have goofed mozzarella a few times!) but the dish looks flawless. Congrats!!

    Reply

  6. Debbie’s avatar

    very nicely done…congrats on moving to challenge #2….you are right about the short time span….no worries – you did a beautiful job!

    Reply

  7. Kimmy’s avatar

    mmmm, yum! I can’t believe you made the cheese too! I’ve only been able to do ricotta so far. Good luck, looks fabulous!

    Reply

  8. Belinda @zomppa’s avatar

    One of my favorite dishes. Impressive that you did this from scratch!!

    Reply

  9. Casey Angelova’s avatar

    Bravo for making the paneer from scratch. What a fantastic touch! Best of luck with PFB!

    Reply

  10. Crystal's Cozy Kitchen’s avatar

    Sounds (and looks) delicious! Good luck, I’ll be voting for you in two days!

    Reply

  11. Michelle’s avatar

    I’ve been blogging a lot lately about how daunting Indian food appears so I definitely can relate to this blog post! Congrats on making it to the next round and hopefully we can both advance to round three! Enjoy Newport!

    Reply

  12. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite’s avatar

    Seems paneer is a popular choice. Yours looks yum! Good luck advancing to the the next round!!!

    Reply

  13. torviewtoronto’s avatar

    lovely choice looks delicious

    Reply

  14. Megan’s avatar

    The paneer from scratch – wow! This is incredibly impressive. I think the dish sounds wonderful. I’m not a huge fan of Indian food… but this falls in the list I stick to: naan, tikka masala, and saag paneer! Good luck in the next round!

    Reply

  15. Elina’s avatar

    So cool that you made paneer!!
    PS – we visited Gloria Ferrer vineyard today and it was great. Thanks for the suggestion!! :)
    PPS – You changed your posts to just summaries in your feed. I’m sad.

    Reply

  16. sophia’s avatar

    Holy cow. This beats mine by the mile. AMAZING that you made your own cheese!!! Go you!!

    Reply

  17. Kerstin’s avatar

    I’m so impressed you made your own paneer! Saag paneer is one of my favorites too and this looks yummy! I really recommend 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer if you get into cooking more Indian dishes – he has a ton of spice blends you grind yourself and everything I’ve made has been so tasty!

    Reply

  18. Jason Phelps’s avatar

    Don’t forget your Foodbuzz friends that have already demonstrated how easy paneer is. Allrecipes is a great site but we all (at Foodbuzz) trying to dethrone them as the best place to go for recipes on the net.

    Saag panneer is a true delight. When I first came across it I thought it would be a lot more complex, but of course what tastes really good doesn’t have to be that hard!

    Jason

    Reply

  19. Hadley’s avatar

    Um. You made your own cheese. You ROCKSTAR! The final dish looks so good – and much better than take out which is always a little wilty, greasy, etc.

    Reply

  20. Dana’s avatar

    Wow… good for you maing your own cheese… sounds delicious!

    Congrats on making it to round 2!

    Reply

  21. Megan’s avatar

    Great job! Even though you made the paneer from scratch (yeah!) I think this is still simple food that fits well within your blog.
    Good luck!

    Reply

  22. Erin’s avatar

    Great job! I made paneer too. It is so easy and tasty! :)

    Reply

  23. Skylar’s avatar

    I love paneer! I made Indian food too for this challenge :) Good luck, I hope you make it to the next round. I voted for you!

    You can see my entry here and hopefully vote for me! http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/973

    Reply

  24. Amy (Sing For Your Supper)’s avatar

    So impressive!! This looks really good!! You’ve got my vote!! :)

    Reply

  25. sharon’s avatar

    Impressive! You got my vote :)

    Reply

  26. Monique@She's Going The Distance’s avatar

    I just voted for this!! I hope you move on to the next round, this was such a great story/dish :)

    Reply

  27. Amanda (The Culinary Passport)’s avatar

    I love paneer (it’s one of the first Indian dishes I learned to make). Congrats for taking it on!

    Reply

  28. Food o' del Mundo’s avatar

    You really went all out. Congrats on making it to round two, I hope to see you again in round three with me too ;-)
    Mary

    Reply

    1. traveleatlove’s avatar

      Thank you! Good luck to you too!

      Reply

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