a year in food and life

Spinach and tofu paneer March 14, 2007

Filed under: food — superspark @ 8:57 pm


It’s been a spinach-ful week in our household. When you’re cooking for two, finishing one of the massive 2.5 lb bags of fresh spinach from Costco before it starts to turn limp and slimy can take a concerted effort. There was the delightful spinach with pine nuts and raisins last weekend. Then there was last night’s somewhat less successful lentil salad served on a bed of fresh spinach. And finally, to finish off the bag, I tried Deborah Madison’s take on saag paneer from the ridiculously titled This Can’t Be Tofu! Saag (or palak) paneer must be one of the most popular dishes at Indian restaurants, at least among the relatively unadventurous, like me.

I won’t profess to know the difference between saag paneer and palak paneer- I’ve always used the names interchangably and thought that the difference in terms was a simply a regional thing. Others have suggested that saag paneer always features spinach (as saag means spinach), whereas palak paneer can have other or mixed greens. Can anyone resolve this question definitively? In any case, a standard paneer (which actually means cottage, apparently) centers around small cubes of a sort of condensed cottage cheese (which is actually fairly easy to make if you like the idea of making your own cheese). Madison’s version replaces the paneer with small cubes of tofu with good results.

This dish may not satisfy die-hard purists- its spice combination was great and the texture was nice, but it wasn’t quite the same as if I’d gone out to an Indian restaurant. And Dylan professed that though he liked it, he preferred it with paneer. Nonetheless, this is a good  alternative that is much lighter on butter and oil than restaurant fare, and frankly, I was amazed at how well it turned out, given that it was my maiden attempt at Indian food. Spicy, flavorful, and easy to make, I’d definitely make it again with tofu or homemade paneer and am looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow.

As a final note, I asked Dylan to spruce up the presentation before I took a picture, figuring that a pile of green mush atop a bed of rice wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing. Normally an elegant plater, he grabbed a bottle of hot chili sauce and started attacking his bowl (pictured in back, as he insisted that it be included in the post). As he became ever more creative with his design, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the key to getting children to eat foods like spinach might be to let them loose with edible “paints” like this…just a thought.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Becky at Key Lime and Coconut.

Spinach and tofu paneer (serve 3-4)

1 carton firm or soft tofu (I used firm)
1 large bunch spinach, stems discarded, leaves well washed
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped (lacking a serrano, I used 2 jalapenos and left a few seeds in)
1-inch knob ginger, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 cup diced onion
2 tbsp ghee, butter, or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp plus pinch nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup yogurt

1. Dice the tofu into pieces about the size of a sugar cube or a little smaller. Bring 6 cups water to boil, add 1 tsp salt and lower the heat to a simmer. Add the tofu, turn off the heat, and leave for 4-5 minutes. Pour into a colander to drain. (If you’ve used soft tofu, remove it with a slotted spoon.) Set aside.

2. Steam the spinach until wilted, then remove it to a cutting board and chop. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water.

3. Put the chiles, ginger, garlic, and onion in a food processor, and process until finely chopped. Heat the ghee or butter in a nonstick skillet, add the onion mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.

4. Add 1 tsp salt, the cumin, nutmeg, cayenne, and 1 cup water. Simmer for 5 minutes, then return the mixture to the food processor, add the spinach, and puree.

5. Return the mixture to the skillet, add the half-and-half and the tofu and simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the yogurt. Serve over rice (I used jasmine).


9 Responses to “Spinach and tofu paneer”

  1. Monisha Says:

    I’ve been craving for palak paneer recently and your recipe seems to hit the spot exactly, it looks absolutely delicious and I really like the way its plated!
    Palak is spinach in hindi so palak paneer has spinach and cottage cheese in it, and saag paneer can include other greens as well.

  2. superspark Says:

    Thanks for the info! Hope you enjoy the recipe.

  3. Kalyn Says:

    Very impressive for your first Indian dish. I’ve actually never had this in an Indian restaurant, but I love the sound of it.

  4. Anh Says:

    This looks lovely. I love the red “paint” from the chilli sauce, which makes the dish looks colorful and lively! Thanks for the recipe.

  5. Helene Says:

    We are spinach addicts, so this is definitely a must try for us, but with cottage cheese! 🙂 Thanks for sharing it! I presume my son would use the same method of colouring! :))

  6. Nupur Says:

    It looks spectacular! I like making palak paneer with tofu for weeknights, saving paneer for the “special” times 🙂 You have done a perfectly fabulous job with it!

  7. The very core of your writing while sounding agreeable initially, did not work well with me personally after some time. Somewhere within the sentences you managed to make me a believer but only for a very short while. I nevertheless have got a problem with your jumps in logic and one might do nicely to help fill in all those gaps. In the event you can accomplish that, I will undoubtedly end up being fascinated.

  8. […] berenson lori berenson the incredibles yu darvish jon bon jovi dead ndaa new jersey plane crash Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  9. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you are a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back from now on to read your good posts. I want to encourage that you continue creating your great blogs , have a nice Day!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s