When it comes to cheesemaking, I am 2 for 3. Dreamy ricotta came together with the insurance policy of heavy cream to help hold it together, but an attempt at mozzarella from a kit I ordered from Amazon died a hundred deaths. That attempt ended in me loudly banging pots and quietly muttering to myself while I was left with cloudy hot water, burnt fingertips and no mozzarella for pizza night. Hello emergency trip to Harris Teeter. My latest non-meltdown and major cheese success is a squeaky paneer that got dropped in a sauce of greens for saag paneer.
There is an Indian restaurant less than 3 blocks away from my apartment but I am very lazy and very gluttonous. I always order way too much food but somehow never end up with proper leftovers. 4 bites of each random dish does not make another meal.
And I am a leftover FIEND.
Whether it’s peeling back the foil on a cold piece of pizza or forking a meatball from a container in the fridge, I do not discriminate against things that were once the main event but have since been cast aside. To help my Indian food leftovers along, I make my own and make so much more, and lay a fried egg on top.
Making paneer was a lot easier than I thought it would be. It actually comes together quicker than ricotta, so in theory you can have fresh paneer in less than an hour. The recipe suggests you strain the cheese using cheesecloth but I don’t keep cheesecloth on hand and I don’t think my cheese knew any better that it wasn’t being swaddled in a finer material. I also upped the veg factor and used mustard greens that had been living in my crisper for a few too many days. The extra greens also balances out my desire to eat all of the cheese that the saag paneer recipe makes.
You can also skip the egg and serve the saag paneer over rice or with warm naan. Or both because a runny egg yolk loves to be sopped up with warm bread.
- 8 cups of whole milk (this is not the place to go low-fat)
- 2 lemons squeezed, 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 12 ounces of paneer
- 1 teaspoon of tumeric
- a pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- olive oil
- 8 oz. of baby spinach
- 1 bunch of mustard greens
- small nub of ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ginger
- 1 serrano chile
- 1small shallot
- 2 teaspoons of garam masala
- 1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup of warm water
- 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
- Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth or paper towels
- Heat the milk over medium-high heat in a wide pot, making sure to stir frequently so the bottom of the pot doesn't scorch the milk
- Bring the milk to a gentle boil, you want steady bubbles but not a rolling boil
- Turn the heat off and add the lemon juice, the curds from the milk should separate
- Gently stir the curds, gathering them with a spoon in the liquid
- Pour the curds and liquid into the lined colander
- Run some cool water over the strained cheese to remove the lemon juice flavor
- Add a pinch of salt to the curds for flavoring
- Gather the paper towel or cheesecloth around the cheese and ring out the excess liquid, continue squeezing the cheese until it is dry
- Still wrapped in the cloth or paper towels place the cheese on a plate in the fridge with another plate on top that's weighted with a heavy can
- Let rest in the fridge for 20 minutes to set the cheese
- Mix a tablespoon of olive oil with the tumeric, pinch of red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- Pour this mixture over your cubed paneer and set aside
- Remove the stems from the mustard greens and chop the greens and spinach
- Heat a saute pan over medium high heat and wilt the greens in a teaspoon of oil
- Remove greens from pan and set aside
- With the pan still hot, sear the cheese cubes. Brown each side until it's the color of a good grilled cheese sandwich, should take about 2 minutes per side
- Place the browned cheese back in the container you had them marinating in so the cubes can soak up any extra oil and seasoning
- Chop the ginger, chile, and shallot finely (If you're worried about spice level then remove the ribs and seeds from the chile)
- If the pan looks dry then add a thin layer of olive oil and saute the ginger, chile, and shallots. Cook the mixture past the stage of soft and wilted. You want to develop a light caramelization on the vegetables
- Add the garam masala, curry powder, and cumin to the pan. You want to toast the spices so cook them in the pan for at least 3 minutes. Stir every so often to keep them from burning. You will able to smell them toasting.
- Add the reserved greens and 1/2 cup of warm water to pan, stir and cover to let the greens, spices, and vegetables mixture get acquainted. Let that cook for another 3 minutes.
- Lower the heat to medium medium-low and stir in the yogurt and add in the cheese cubes
- Cover and let the cheese warm through and then serve