Palak Paneer (Indian Cheese in Spinach Curry)

cooked palak paneer in a bowl with steamed rice

Palak paneer features creamy Indian cheese in a spicy curried spinach sauce.

Palak paneer (Indian cheese simmered in curried spinach sauce) has always been one of those dishes that I want to love. I mean,  I love cheese. I love curry. And spinach. But all the restaurant paneer I had ever had was bland and slightly rubbery. But a few weeks ago, I began experimenting with homemade paneer and it changed my life. Well, okay, mayyyybe I’m exaggerating, but it definitely changed how I feel about paneer. Easy to make, homemade paneer is rich and creamy, with a hint of lemony and salty flavor. Cooked into a bright green curried spinach sauce, it becomes tender and, although it seems impossible, even more creamy.

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Homemade Paneer–So Easy, So Delicious

Homemade paneer cut into cubesI love Indian food, but I’ve never been crazy about the paneer I’ve had either at my local Indian restaurants or the stuff I can buy at the market. So, obviously, I had to eventually try my hand at making my own. It turns out that homemade paneer is simple to make and as delicious as I always thought a homemade Indian cheese should be.

Check out my recipe below for easy and delicious homemade paneer. Once you’ve made it, you can use it in Palak Paneer (paneer in a curried spinach sauce) or use it in grilled cheese sandwiches spread with spicy chutney.

Homemade paneer made with a2 Milk®. The curds and whey are separated by draining the curds in a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

To make homemade paneer, you use acid to separate the curds and whey, then drain out the weigh in a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

homemade-paneer-squeeze-wm

Homemade Paneer
Author: 
 
Paneer is a fresh South Asian farmer’s cheese that is used in Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Afghani cuisines. It’s mildly flavored, soft, and crumbly. It is often cooked in spicy curries, but it can also be grilled or fried, and is great in sandwiches or crumbled over flatbread.

Paneer is super easy to make—you only need 3 ingredients (milk, lemon juice or another acid, and salt) and some cheesecloth. All the other equipment you’ll use (pot, bowl, etc.) are standard, everyday kitchen items. The process, in a nutshell, is to bring the milk to a boil, stir in acid to separate the curds and whey, strain out the whey, and press the curds into a firm slab. It can be done in as little as 30 minutes, although you can take a leisurely approach and do it in an hour with minimal hands-on time.

You can use either whole milk or 2% milk, although as with most recipes, the more fat the better, so go ahead and choose the full-fat variety. You can use any acid you like (vinegar and whey are both common). I used lemon juice and really liked the hint of lemony flavor it added.
Ingredients
  • ½ gallon whole or 2% milk
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Put the milk in a large pot and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it just comes to a boil. Do not heat it too quickly or let it scald.
  2. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Cover the pot and let sit for 10 minutes. At this point, the curds and whey should have separated, and there will be a yellowish, watery layer (the whey) on top with the curds at the bottom.
  3. Line a strainer or colander with the cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. Pour the separated milk through the strainer. You can pour out the whey or transfer it to another container to save for another purpose (some people use it in baking, smoothies, or in their next batch of paneer.) Let the curds sit in the cheesecloth in the strainer until they are cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Gather the cheesecloth around the cheese and squeeze it gently to remove the remaining liquid. Stir in the salt.
  4. Pat the cheese into a flat patty, about 1½ to 2 inches thick.
  5. Wrap the patty in the cheesecloth and set it on a plate. A pot or another plate on top and weight it down with a large can of tomatoes or something similar. Let stand for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain off any liquid that has collected on the plate, and then unwrap the cheesecloth. Use or eat the paneer immediately, or wrap it in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Paneer can even be frozen (again, wrap it in plastic wrap and then pop it in the freezer, where it will keep for at least 3 months).

 

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Chicken Quinoa Salad + Apple Vinaigrette

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Foster Farms. I received free samples of the product mentioned and was compensated for my time. All opinions stated are my own.

quinoa salad with grilled chicken, kale, cabbage, raisins, radishes, and apple vinaigrette

Grilled Chicken and Quinoa Salad in Apple-Cumin Vinaigrette. Photo by Robin Donovan.

To make this hearty chicken and quinoa salad, I picked up some Foster Farms California-raised Organic Fresh Chicken from my local Safeway store. I love that this chicken is grown right here in California, is raised free-range on organic, certified non-GMO feed, and is certified by the American Humane Association. But let’s face it, it also has to taste good. Happily, the Foster Farms boneless, skinless Organic Fresh Chicken breast fillets I used fit the bill.

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Red Hot Cauliflower Wings for My Valentine #FoodBloggerLove

red hot cauliflower wingsIf you’ve read anything here at all, you know that we lazy gourmets love a recipe that’s simple, delicious, and healthy. But you know what we love even more? An easy recipe that calls for ingredients that we already have on hand, like Cook with Manali’s Spicy Cauliflower Wings.

Before I talk about that dish, though, I have to tell you how much I love the blog Cook with Manali.

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From Mediterranean Cooking to Japanese Knife Styles

book coversI generally hate the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions, but if I was going to make one this year, it would be to blog more here on Two Lazy Gourmets. While I’ve been remiss about blogging here, I’ve been super busy writing cookbooks, developing a new website about cooking with whole foods, and writing articles for sites around the web. Here are a few snippets of what I’ve been working on.

Last year, I wrote several new cookbooks including Sushi at Home, a beginner’s guide to the fascinating—and intimidating—world of sushi, including easy-to-follow instructions, tips, and techniques to help sushi lovers become confident sushi chefs.

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Turning Found Fruit into Treasured Quince Jelly (Super Simple Recipe!)

Quince Jelly

Quince jelly is surprisingly easy to make and it’s delicious spread on toast.

I’ve always gotten a kick out of “finding” food and turning it into something delicious like quince jelly. At my first sleep-away camp at age 7, my buddies and I plucked huckleberries from vines alongside a hiking trail. We proundly presented the hippy camp cooks (this was a self-sufficient organic farm camp in Northern California in the 1970s) with buckets of the tiny tart-sweet berries and they turned them into luscious pies and moist cakes topped with a crunchy sugar glaze. We were SO proud when they served them to the entire camp at dinner that night.

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Herb Mayonnaise and More at SF Cooking School

Tomato Sandwich with Herb Mayonnaise

Homemade herb mayonnaise, toasted sourdough bread, and sliced heirloom tomatoes make the perfect lunch

People assume that since I’m a freelance food writer, I must eat amazing meals—like the heirloom tomato sandwich with homemade herb mayonnaise pictured above—all the time. The truth is a bit more dismal. Lunch usually involves snacking on random leftovers (if I’m lucky) while hunched over my computer at my dining room table (which doubles as my office). Plus, I don’t even have any coworkers to discuss the latest Duggar scandal with. So when someone invites me to lunch at a cooking school, I say yes. Twice this summer I’ve been to events that involved eating delicious food (including the aforementioned herb mayonnaise, see recipe below) and engaging in fascinating conversation (about food mostly, not the Duggars) at the San Francisco Cooking School.

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Spaghetti Squash Carbonara with Pecorino Romano

pecorino romano carbonara

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara with Pecorino Romano cheese. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Secrest Photography; recipe courtesy of Caroline Fey of The City Kitchen)

If you’re ever invited to a seven-course Pecorino Romano-themed dinner party — especially at San Francisco’s Cookhouse, a glamorous culinary event venue located  upstairs from Vesuvio bar with a stunning view of the heart of North Beach — say YES! Robin and I were in this very situation a few months back, so my advice can be trusted.

First off, we learned a ton about Pecorino Romano. For example: this hard, salty sheep’s milk cheese was born over 2,000 years ago in the Roman region of Lazio. Today, 90% of all Pecorino Romano is produced in Sardinia, with indispensable assistance from an ancient (and fluffy!) creature called the Sardinian sheep. Since salt is a natural preservative, Pecorino was a perfect traveling food for Roman soldiers — and, many years later, for Italian immigrants sailing to the United States. Also a plus for warriors and travelers: sheep’s milk contains twice the amount of protein as cow’s milk, calcium in an easily digestible form, and vitamins B1, B2, PP, A and E. All good stuff to know, right?

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Pickled Onions with Lime Juice

lime juice pickled onions

Lime juice pickled onions perk up taco truck tacos and a whole lot more

This quick lime juice pickled onion recipe is so simple, so flavorful, and so beautiful (that bright pink color!) that I just can’t get enough. The lime juice makes these pickled onions a perfect match for Mexican food, so I made up a batch to top some goat tacos a couple of weeks ago, but since then I’ve put them on scrambled eggs; a pita sandwich stuffed with broiled salmon; a salad with Romaine lettuce, feta cheese ,and tomatoes; bagels and lox; and about a million other things.

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Char Siu Bao (Steamed BBQ Pork Buns)—Weeknight Easy

char siu bao

Char Siu Bao (steamed BBQ pork buns) are surprisingly easy to make

I don’t know what magic was at work, but apparently, I once had all the time in the world. I know this because I have vivid memories of spending countless hours in the kitchen happily infusing oils, kneading dough, hand-making fussy little morsels without a care. Case in point: I went through a phase of making dim sum—every sort of Chinese dumpling from deep-fried wontons to char siu bao (steamed bbq pork buns)—from scratch on a regular basis, like I was someone’s Chinese grandma.

In need of some kitchen inspiration recently, I pulled out some of my old dim sum recipes, but was instantly put off by how time-consuming they were. Clearly, times have changed. Alas, the bee had entered my bonnet and, like it or not, I was making Char Siu Bao for my family, but I had to find a quicker way.

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