I’ve been lucky enough to learn how to cook a variety of dishes in my travels to India, as well as from the great Julie Sahni, Suvir Saran, and others. Paneer Masala is one of them. My friend Charlie (fearless leader of The Spice House) mentioned the other day how much he liked the version from How To Grill Everything. Very kind of him, and, modesty aside, I’d have to agree; this dish does have a few things going for it. Traditionally, this is something that’s cooked entirely on the stovetop, but grilling the paneer and vegetables before incorporating them into the sauce is a game changer. Also (and I’m sure Charlie will appreciate this part where I fawn over spices), the aroma of cumin, turmeric and onion cooking in butter is indescribably wonderful; you’ll wish your kitchen smelled like that all the time.
If you’re not familiar with paneer (which also takes center stage in saag paneer), you may want to be. It’s a type of cheese that’s incredibly firm and holds its shape through any cooking process (pan-frying, stewing, and yes, grilling). Look for it in natural food stores or Indian markets (or, of course, like anything, online). If you can’t find it, you can substitute halloumi or queso fresco, which also won’t lose their shape when grilled directly over the fire.
If you can’t get your hands on some workable cheese (or you’re vegan), there’s a wonderful variation at the end of the recipe that uses extra firm tofu instead, which is a very worthy substitute. (There’s also a version that combines paneer and cauliflower, spiked with jalapeño and made wonderfully rich and creamy with coconut milk.)
Whichever version you’re into, it’s a good time of year to cook this dish (nice enough to grill, but not so unbearably hot that we can’t crave a curry). See you Tuesday.
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Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma’s potato salad, or your mom’s meatloaf, or your uncle Drew’s three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don’t hesitate to reach out anytime.
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