I realized something about myself while cooking Indian food. Music and me don’t mesh well together. The kitchen is where I’m in my zen space. Not my bedroom. Not the shower. Not even the couch. [You’d think it’s the couch from all the posts about sitting on my couch watching endless hours of trashy reality TV shows!] It’s the kitchen. I think most of you foodies can relate.
So why was the music even on? My partner was helping me cook and she wanted some music. I didn’t oppose. I thought I’d be nice to have a little background music. She put on some Feist, which I love on any other given day. But not that day. It sounded like someone running their fingernails down a chalkboard. That’s what it felt like. I had a hard time concentrating on what I was doing. I couldn’t think to myself. Every thought was drowned out by the screeching voice of Feist. Ugh. I started to get irritated. I wasn’t enjoying the process anymore. I was also being really short with my partner (which I felt horrible for). I just had it. I walked over to her laptop, and turned off the music. Finally. There was some peace and quiet.
The only sounds in the kitchen was the sizzling of the paneer browning in the skillet and the chopping of the tomatoes. It was music to my ears (no pun intended). Ahh, I was finally back to my tranquil place, as I thought to myself.
How do you like to cook? With music? With the TV on? Or none of the above?
Saag Paneer (aka, Palak Paneer)
6 cups of fresh spinach, rinsed and drained
1/3 pound paneer, cubed
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, seeded, and pureed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 green chile peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
Salt, to taste
Boil spinach in a big pot of water until cooked. Place spinach into a food process or blender, and blend until pureed with smooth consistency.
In a large, nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil and saute cubed paneer until they become golden and browned on all sides. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the ginger, garlic, chile peppers, coriander powder, and turmeric powder together to make a paste.
Using the same nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil. When oil is hot, add cumins, and saute for a minute. Add onions, and saute until translucent. Add the ginger-garlic paste and garam masala, and saute for another two to three minutes. Next, add the pureed spinach and tomato. Mix well. Cook until the spinach mixture has thickened, and the liquid from the tomato is cooked. Reduce heat to medium low, and continue to cook for five to ten minutes covered. If you think the curry is too thick, add a little water until the desired consistency. Adjust seasoning with salt. Before turning off the heat, add the paneer cubes. Mix them into the spinach, and simmer for two to three minutes, and then turn off the heat. Add greek yogurt, and mix thoroughly.
Serve with naan or pulao.