Paneer with a Mediterranean- Indian Flare
Three cheers for paneer! Paneer is a high protein cheese popular in Indian cuisine. It's a great vegetarian option and an alternative to tofu. An advantage of paneer is its very basic form and taste: it does not melt (making it fry or bake proof) and it has a mild, almost imperceptible taste, which gives you more room in the kitchen to experiment with flavors (it'll be hard to get tired of it).
At my local market, I stumbled upon the Sach brand of paneer. Sach's Original Paneer is made with grass-fed cows (which is great), is organic, 100% natural (there's no funny business here), 100% vegetarian, 100% keto if you're into that, is artisanally made, and ethically sourced. Automatic win, no?
I love Indian food and unfortunately I am nowhere near my favorite Indian restaurant due to Covid, so here I am in my kitchen trying to get a bit of Indian cuisine back into my life. Saag paneer is probably the most famous Indian paneer dish, and it is absolutely delicious! But since this was my first time cooking paneer, I didn't want to botch trying to make authentic saag paneer. So I decided to experiment with fusing Mediterranean (my background) and Indian flavors, which share quite similar ingredients, like cumin which I can never get enough of.
So the final product, tried and tasted, is an easy to make vegetarian bowl full of the familiar warm spices of Indian and the fresh and flavorful qualities found in Mediterranean cuisine. I served it over some quinoa, and couldn't resist to add a dollop of hummus on the side. Add some mint on the top too if you're feeling extra fancy.
Whether you're new to paneer or a veteran paneer chef, hopefully this recipe will inspire you to play around with paneer and to create your own paneer recipes. Now let's get cooking!
Yields 4 servings
2 medium green zucchinis
1 medium yellow zucchini
2 small-medium tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion
1/4 cup of nut milk (I used Three Trees Unsweetened Almond milk or you can use dairy milk if you'd prefer) :)
2 garlic cloves
5 cups of spinach or lacinato kale (or both!)
1 1/2 tsp of curry powder
1 tsp of cumin
pinch of turmeric
Olive oil or avocado oil
In a pan over medium heat, add 2tbs of olive oil. Add in the diced onions. Stir until translucent (approx. 4 min). Add garlic.
Add in the diced tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Give it a little stir. When the tomatoes start to get soft, with tongs remove the tomato skins (at this point they should be easy to peel off or have already removed themselves from the flesh). Using a potato masher or fork, mash the tomatoes a bit.
Add in the squash and mix it all together ("and you know that it's the best of both worlds." If you know you know.)
Once the squash starts to get soft (approx. 5 min), add the curry powder, cumin, and freshly ground black. Mix so that everything is evenly covered.
Add in your spinach or kale (or both!) in handful bunches so that it can wilt and then you can add more without spilling spinach all over the kitchen. Add some of the milk (you may not need the entire 1/4 cup, so eyeball it) and stir it in so that the mixture becomes creamy.
Add salt to taste and remove from the heat.
Cut your paneer into bite sized cubes.
In a pan, add in your oil over medium- high heat. Once the oil is heated, add in your cubed paneer and be sure they are on top of each other, otherwise they will not brown evenly. If the pan is small, you may have to work in batches.
Add a generous sprinkling of salt, pinch of turmeric, and the fennel seeds. Give that all a toss.
With tongs, turn the paneer cubes over to their other side until golden-brown (1-2 min).
Once both sides are golden-brown, set paneer on a paper towel to remove any excess oil.
In a bowl add quinoa or rice, then the veggie mixture, and finally the paneer. Enjoy!