For years the only dish I ordered at Indian restaurants was Palak Paneer – luscious cubes of cheese buried in creamy spiced spinach. I always thought that I would only find this dish in an authentic Indian kitchen. Imagine how thrilled I was when I first saw a recipe for it and realized that I could do this! And you can too.
This is one of those dishes that impresses people so much that you almost feel guilty taking credit for it. All of the ingredients are fairly ordinary except the garam masala, and you can either purchase that or make some for yourself (it will keep in a tightly sealed jar for up to six months).
When I looked up a hand made garam masala recipe in Yamuna Devi’s The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, she listed no less than 8 different regional versions! I ended up creating my own version since I didn’t have all of the spices for any one of them. It still turned out wonderful! Also, since it is sometimes hard to fine paneer, I often use firm or extra firm tofu as I did in this case.
Palak Paneer with Tofu
2 bunches fresh spinach (or 1 bunch spinach, 1 bunch of Swiss chard), steamed
1/2 onion, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 green pepper, cored, chopped
2 tablespoons water
2-4 green chilies, deseeded for less heat, chopped
1/3 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or cream
1-2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 block tofu, cut into cubes
Food process cooked spinach, green pepper, green chilies, and water until it forms wet paste. In skillet pan, saute onion in oil until softened. Add spinach puree and stir in well. Cook 4-5 minutes over medium heat. Add tofu and cook another 5 minutes. Stir in garam masala and cook couple more minutes. Stir in 1/2 and 1/2 or cream and cook 2-3 minutes until well absorbed. Add salt to taste and serve.
My Garam Masala included the following, toasted and ground in a mortar pestle:
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
3 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
5 whole cardomom pods, cracked open and deseeded
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes