A Fantastic Feast

Saag Paneer with Masaledar Sem

I’ve made this meal a couple of times now and have finally tweaked it sufficiently to our individual tastes. So much so that the original recipes no longer quite suit us. Although if you’d prefer the source materials, by all means, go for it! They’re sublime and probably better-written recipes. And by “probably,” I mean most certainly.

Homemade Paneer: Anna Jones A Modern Way to Eat
Palak Paneer: Food52
Masaledar Sem (Spicy Green Beans): Food52

If you feel like you can trust me (and like me, you have a garden full of beans and chard that you need to use) then read on. And yes, I realize that barren plates don’t make for the most appealing photos, but it was so good, we scraped ’em clean. All of us.

Saag Panner

Let’s start with the paneer. I know that the Food52 Palak Paneer recipe gives store-bought paneer the thumbs-up, but I have absolutely no idea why. Homemade paneer is pretty darn easy (assuming you don’t boil the milk over and flood your stovetop and coat the bottom of your Dutch oven with nasty scalded milk scum that will take you about an hour of steel wool scrubbing, leaving you with bloodied fingertips and ruined cheese). Plus, it’s totally more delicious, if not more convenient, than that rubbery stuff you can purchase. Plus, the Hurricane can attest that watching the curds form is cool kitchen science.

The Secret to Perfect Homemade Paneer

Watch it carefully. Then watch it some more. Do not, under any circumstances, leave the stove unattended to do some laundry, put your child in the shower, or pick the chard and green beans for the saag paneer and the masaledar sem. And when the recipe says “Pour the milk into a high-sided saucepan and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring every now and again so the milk doesn’t form a skin,” do so. Only if you’re going for a gallon, go for the Dutch oven.

We like a lot of paneer in our in our saag so we doubled Ms. Jones’ recipe.

1 gallon whole milk (the better the milk the better the paneer, I’m sure, but Kroger milk is still more delicious that premade paneer.)
1/3 cup lemon juice (I far prefer real measurements to “the juice of 2 lemons” because that really doesn’t mean anything. Some lemons make more lemonade than others. True fact.)

Feel free to make this the day before and let it soak in the fridge in its whey. It’ll make your life easier. Then again, if you make it the day of, all you’ll need to do is rinse out the scalded pan and use it for the saag. Your call.

POD’s Saag Paneer, with thanks to Food52’s Palak Panner

If “palak” is spinach and “saag” is greens, “saag” it is because we’re using up an s-ton of Swiss chard here. I’m not on board with the creamy saag thing, as the paneer is creamy enough for me, but folks seem to love a creamy saag. Add 1/4 c. to 1/2 c. cream at the end if you’re feeling really decadent.

Serves 6-8

  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 lb Swiss chard (wash it good, wash it real good. Remove the greens from the stems. Slice the greens into 1″ ribbons and then chop a little more. Slice up a cup of the stems as you would celery for a mirepoix and set them aside.)
  • Paneer (see above), cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 12-24 (your call) black peppercorns
  • 4-6 cardamom pods
  • 4-8 cloves
  • c. diced red onions, about 1/2-inch pieces
  • tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Thai chile diced (optional)
  • 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes (or whole tomatoes, squished. Reserve the liquid)
  • 1 small drizzle of honey or a pinch of sugar if you’re worried about acidity
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 heavy teaspoons garam masala (If you toast your own spices and grind your own garam masala, you won’t be sorry.)
  1. Pour 2 tablespoons oil in your not-scalded Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium. Once the oil is hot, dump the Swiss chard into the pan and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. After 5-10 minutes or so, the greens will wilt down (chard takes longer than spinach, so be patient). Once the chard is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a blender or food processor and purée.
  2. Boil 4 cups of water and once the water comes to a rolling boil, add paneer slabs. Turn the heat off after paneer has been in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with a lid for 12-20 minutes or so. Use a slotted spoon to remove the paneer from the water and then cut it into 1- by 1/2-inch pieces and set aside.
  3. Roughly crush peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves in a mortar and pestle and throw out the cardamom pods.
  4. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat (you can use the same Dutch oven). Add onions and chard stems and stir till they get a brownish tinge, then add ginger, garlic, and, if using, Thai chile pepper. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour chopped tomatoes followed by a touch of honey or a pinch of sugar. Once the tomatoes break down, add a splash of the reserved tomato juice and spice mix of peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves. Stir till the liquid evaporates and the onion/tomato mixture starts turning dark, about 9 to 10 minutes.
  5. Pour in blended spinach purée. Add salt and 1/2 cup tomato juice or water to adjust consistency. You can add a little bit more if you find the sauce is getting pasty.
  6. Once the spinach mixture boils, gently drop in paneer pieces. Let the paneer soak in the flavors and spices of the spinach purée for about 10 minutes.
  7. Add garam masala.

I find that this holds well, so I’d make this and keep it warm while you deal with the beans.

Masaledar Sem (Spicy Green Beans)

Well, folks, Food52 hit this one on the head. There’s nothing I can do to make it better. Except to warn you that a pound and a half of green beans feeds three, not six.

Now, get cooking. And don’t forget the basmati rice peppered with a few cardomom pods and whole cloves and a handful of frozen peas tossed in at the end of the cooking time.


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