Friday, January 28, 2005

Spinach and Tofu Paneer

This is for Alicia. It isn't exactly what she wanted but I discovered that out of my 154 cookbooks (I actually stopped to count them ... shocking number!), I have only 3 Indian cookbooks and neither had it. However, I did have this recipe that sounds pretty close from This Can't Be Tofu by Deborah Madison. Also using tofu sounds a lot easier than coming up with fresh Indian cheese. I really detest "vegetarian" cookbooks but this one grabbed me when it came out. It was riveting and made me believe I actually could cook and enjoy tofu. Too bad I've never put that to the test by making a recipe from it. This might be the one that breaks that barrier. I will include Madison's introduction because it explains why I thought Alicia might like the recipe.

For a long time it seemed to me that there was more than a superficial resemblance between the white Indian cheese called paneer and tofu. When I finally made the classic Indian dish of spinach and paneer using tofu, it tasted amazingly at home in the cumin, ginger, and chile-laced sauce. There's a little going back and forth between the skillet and a food processor but this is an easy dish to make. I serve it over rice with a sprinkling of toasted black sesame seeds.

1 carton firm or soft tofu
1 large bunch spinach, stems discarded, leaves well washed
1 jalapeƱo, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped (I would seed this too)
1-inch knob ginger, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons ghee, butter, or vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon, plus a pinch, nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup yogurt

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

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

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.

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

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 basmati rice.

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