palak paneer revisited (WHB#131: ginger)

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recipes: how to “cook” spinach with salt; palak paneer; red cabbage raita

Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB)#131
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

palak paneer I cannot overstate how much I love palak paneer. It really is my favourite vegetable dish. I think I could have it every night.

I know. It’s laced with butter. But it’s also laced with spinach. Surely the benefits of the spinach cancel out the drawbacks of the butter. (And doesn’t butter contain vitamin A? Or something like that? :lalala:)

(click on image for larger view and more photos)

I didn’t used to like spinach. Oh my no. When I was a kid, watching Popeye, I knew that it was just a bunch of propaganda and that spinach (canned or not) was revolting. Then as an adult, I relented and decided that uncooked spinach for salads was tolerable. Just.

And then I met my future husband. Who took me to an Indian restaurant and insisted on ordering palak paneer. Against my better judgement, I agreed. Because I had to be polite.

Oh my, oh my!! I was in love!! And not just with this amazing man who got me to eat spinach without me having to hold my nose, squeeze my eyes shut and hope I wouldn’t gag. In fact, I was almost immediately arguing over who would get to have the bigger portion of spinach.

Yes, indeed, I adore palak paneer. (Did I already say that once or twice?) I think T’s latest batch of palak paneer was the best ever. He really caramelized the onions so they were quite dark brown, giving a hint of burnt sugar.

I love that palak paneer can be made well in advance. It can even be made a day before serving and is just as wonderful.

How to “Cook” Spinach with Salt
spinach Granted, our palak paneer is unconventional in one way: we don’t parboil the spinach.

Instead, we wash the spinach well and let it drain in a colander. And sprinkle it with salt. Then toss to mix and set aside to drain for about half an hour. Then we rinse (to get rid of all the extra salt) and hand-squeeze the spinach til it is quite dry. The juice is discarded. We let it rest in colander for a few more minutes. Then we (when I say “we”, of course I mean “he”) squeeze again – 3 or 4 times in total. And taste to be sure there’s no excessive salt.

While this method is very likely never used in India, we prefer it to the more traditional blanching and squeezing out the spinach for three reasons:

  1. It is MUCH easier to squeeze room temperature salted spinach.
  2. There is one less pot to wash.
  3. In the finished dish, the spinach retains its wonderful emerald colour.

Here is the rest of our recipe:

palak paneer and chole what goes with palak paneer

We always serve with palak paneer with naan. This most recent time we had palak paneer, we also had chole (chickpeas) and red cabbage raita (at least I’m guessing I can call it that – I made it with shredded red cabbage, onion, cumin seed, garam masala and yoghurt.)

Remind me to ask T exactly what he did to make the chole.

Weekend Herb Blogging (WHB#131)
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

weekend herb blogging - © kalyns kitchen Almost every morning, the first thing I have is a cup of ginger tea. I put the thinnest coin of ginger into a cup and pour boiling water overtop. It’s the best thing. Refreshing. Rejuvenating.

It is possible to grow ginger in the garden. Ginger is a rhyzome and all you have to do is plant one of the knobby parts from store-bought ginger in good soil that gets lots of sun. Ginger likes to be kept watered but otherwise just needs to be left alone. Here, this far north, it doesn’t produce the biggest root but it is still fun to grow it. The leaves offer a quite attractive backdrop for other low-lying plants.

Apparently, the ginger leaf (aka daun cekur) can also be used for flavouring and is used in some dishes in Southeast Asia.

In The Harrowsmith Illustrated Book of Herbs, Patrick Lima (who lives in London, Ontario) gives the following advice about growing ginger:

Plant the roots horizontally, one per pot just under the soil surface in a foot-wide container filled with a nourishing soil mix […] Keep the soil damp. […] It will become about 3 feet tall with glossyy, dark green alternate leaves. In about six months, dig down […] cut off some for the kitchen, and replant the remainder.

Like bay, ginger can spend the summers outdoors, provided it can first adapt to brighter light with a period of rest in the shade. However, it will grow perfectly well without ever seeing the outdoors; even an eastern or western window will keep it green and growing. Fertilize it throughout spring and summer.

Please read more about ginger:

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WHB is on the road again and this week’s host is Laurie (Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska). The deadline for entering WHB#131 is Sunday 11 May 2008 at 15:00, Utah time (GMT-7). For complete details on how to participate in Weekend Herb Blogging, please see the following:

 

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  • The combination of spices in your Spinach Paneer sounds so good. I like that this can be made ahead. Thanks for participating in Weekend Herb Blogging.

  • I’ve never had this dish, not even in a restaurant. Must try it since you’re recommending it so highly. Also very interesting tips about growing ginger.

  • I can totally see how one taste of palak paneer would convert you to a spinach lover. I’ve had it in restaurants but haven’t made it myself. I really need to, don’t I?

  • Oh that’s inspired!! I love the idea of not parboiling the spinach. I also grew up not liking spinach, but I think my turning point came when creamed spinach and feta became fashionable in South Africa. I was after the feta, but in the process I realised that the spinach wasn’t too bad either ;-)

  • MrsBrown

    I started loving cooked spinach when I read Laurie Colwin’s book “Home Cooking”. She tells a story of being at someone’s house where they served creamed spinach with jalapeno peppers that made her “sit up and beg like a dog”. Something that makes one beg like a dog must be tried so I made it. Wonderful! Sadly, my family is not as enamoured of creamed spinach with jalapeno peppers as I am. Perhaps it’s “happily” for me, as I get to eat it all!!

    I’ve made palak paneer a few times but it’s never as good as the ones I get in a restaurant. Whenever we go to an Indian restaurant, we ALWAYS get palak paneer and I’m usually the one who eats most of it. I went to an Indian restaurant with a different friend who also loves palak paneer and we very carefully and equally shared it.

  • ejm

    Palak paneer really is a dish made in heaven, Laurie.

    MrsBrown, I cannot imagine anyone not making sure that the palak paneer is evenly divided nor can I imagine disliking or feeling indifferent towards creamed spinach with jalapeno peppers. (I like that image of sitting up and begging like a dog for spinach.) Really? You like it better in restaurants than at home? I’ve always found the restaurant version (except at the Amber in Calcutta) to be disappointingly brown and a little overstewed.

    Jeanne, I’m guessing that creamed spinach with feta might be similar to palak paneer (although I can’t imagine it’s quite as rich)

    Kalyn, you’ve never had it? You’re in for a treat!

    Yes, Susan, you really need to make it yourself. Do let me know what think.