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Spring, summer greens perfect for this leafy, light Indian dish

Palak Paneer (Saag Paneer)
Palak Paneer (Saag Paneer) Special to The Star

Saag is a generic Hindi term for leafy green vegetables, and this particular dish uses three types: chopped spinach, mustard greens and fenugreek greens. Although the recipe can be prepared with spinach alone if necessary, the combination of greens results in a more authentic depth and complexity. Fresh ginger also plays a prominent role in the dish, adding to both the nutritive value and warmth of flavor.

Paneer is the Indian name for farmer’s cheese, and it is the Eastern analog to Western cottage cheese. The cheese is easy to make at home, and it is also available at Indian markets and at Costco.

In India, winter is the best growing season for fruits and vegetables, and I remember enjoying this dish in my mother’s kitchen while back at home from school on winter holidays. Here in Kansas City, though, the abundance of farmers markets and fresh leaves in the warmer months make summertime the perfect time to try out this light, delicious, nutrient-packed recipe. Hope you enjoy it.

Palak Paneer (Saag Paneer)

A healthy, green take on paneer. Also very popular in northern India.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/4 cup canola oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped or grated

4 cloves of garlic, finely grated

1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce

1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed

1 cup of fresh or frozen broccoli florets

1 cup of frozen mustard greens

1 cup of fresh methi (fenugreek) spinach (available at Ambica) or 1 tablespoon dry methi leaves

Salt to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

12-14 pieces of paneer

1/3 cup low-fat milk (optional)

1 tablespoon canola oil (for garnish)

1 1/2 teaspoons julienne ginger

In a pan, heat oil on medium heat. Saute the onions until they are light brown. Add garlic and saute another 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and saute again for 2 to 3 minutes. Add spinach, broccoli, mustard greens and methi leaves and saute for an additional 7 to 10 minutes. Add salt and cayenne pepper, mix and then cool.

In a blender, grind the spinach mixture to a smooth paste. Heat the pan, melt the butter and mix in the blended spinach. Once heated through — about 3 to 4 minutes — gently fold the cubed paneer into the spinach.

If saag paneer is very thick, add 1/3 cup of milk. This makes the dish creamier.

Before serving, heat oil in a small pan and saute ginger for a couple of minutes. Evenly spread oil and ginger on top of the saag paneer.

Serve with rice or Indian flat bread.

Jyoti Mukharji teaches Indian cooking classes in her Prairie Village home. In the past five years, more than 1,900 aspiring Indian chefs have come through her kitchen.

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