During the school week, I walk past an Indian restaurant at least twice a day on my way to and from campus. The aromas seem to permeate my skin in just the few short minutes I’m within nose-shot; I sometimes feel as though the sensory experience is strong enough to count as an actual meal.
A few nights ago, despite having indulged in a particularly pungent feast on my stroll home, I arrived at my apartment with an enormous appetite. When I opened the fridge, a block of Indian paneer cheese begged to finally be cooked after a lonely couple weeks chillin’ out by itself. When I also saw a bundle of fresh hoophouse spinach and a finger of ginger, I knew it was time to get my Indian on. Forget aromatic jaunts past ever-tempting restaurants–why not bring the whole shebang into my own kitchen? The menu: A simple, traditional Indian dish and a long-time personal favorite, saag paneer. I’m sure the people walking past my abode as I cooked had their own noses to the sky…
2 pounds fresh spinach, washed and stems trimmed, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
1/2 pound cubed paneer cheese (available in the specialty cheese section of most stores, or you can make your own)
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup plain yogurt
Salt, to taste
Melt the butter in a deep skillet over a medium flame, being careful not to burn. Add the cubed paneer and fry until light brown on all sides, turning gently to avoid breaking up the cubes. Remove cheese from the skillet and set aside.
Return the skillet to the heat and sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger; cook and stir until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the mixture with the curry powder. Continue to stir to about 1 minute, then fold in the chopped spinach and cook until spinach is just wilted. Shut the heat off and stir in the buttermilk and yogurt. Gently fold in the fried paneer cubes, add salt to taste, and serve with steamed rice or flatbread. Let all your senses indulge! Or at least a couple of them.