The very first Indian food recipe my friend Shanthi taught me was Paneer Sag which is a spinach and cheese dish that is very saucy and is a perfect pair with steamed basmati rice. Paneer cheese is basically the same cheese as Queso Fresco or Farmer’s Cheese. It is super simple to make at home, but you need to plan ahead to let the cheese drain and firm up from the night before. If you are buying your cheese, Queso Fresco is MUCH easier to find than Paneer. This dish is finished with a technique called “tempering” that is very common in Indian cooking. Here is a short video of the technique in case you aren’t sure how to do it.
1 - 2 hot peppers such as serrano or jalapeno, halved (seed and de-vein the peppers if you don't want it too hot!)
1 tsp salt
4 oz of Paneer cheese or Queso Fresco, cut into cubes (Queso Fresco is much easier to find)
2 Tbs vegetable oil (I use coconut oil or olive oil)
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
Place the tomato, onion, garlic and peppers in a large pot and add a splash of water. Turn the heat to medium high and get the splash of water steaming, add another splash if the water dries out too quickly. When the vegetables have begun to soften, add in the spinach and cook it stirring constantly until it wilts.
Transfer the contents of the pot to your blender and blend on high until it looks like a sauce or soup. Add 1 tsp of salt while blending and, if necessary, add just enough water to make the mixture blendable.
Transfer the hot spinach mixture to a glass serving bowl and stir in the cheese cubes.
A very common way to finish Indian dishes is the process called Tempering. To temper, you need to heat the 2 Tbs of oil in a very small pot. Use high heat to get the oil hot quickly and then quickly stir in the whole cumin seeds. Stir the seeds constantly while they fry in the oil until they become golden and smell toasty.
The final step is to VERY CAREFULLY pour the hot oil over the top of the spinach mixture and then mix it in. It will sputter and jump when the hot oil hits the food so wear a kitchen glove.
After tempering, the dish is ready to eat!
I usually serve this with steamed basmati rice or basmati pilaf, bombay potatoes, curried cauliflower, or coconut curry shrimp.