Fresh Herbs

A fresh and fun recipe catalog by a girl who likes to play in the kitchen the "from scratch" way.

|THE SAAGA CONTINUES: PANEER PART DEUX| 02/15/2012

Filed under: cheese,CILANTRO,CORIANDER,GARLIC,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:45 pm

So I cubed up my paneer and fried it (2 min per side, just two sides) in a combo of sesame oil and canola oil. Why sesame? Because I had it (and it was suffering from a severe case of pantry fatigue)…I also like the way it smells, it’s great for frying, it’s a traditional oil used in South Indian cookery (I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘cookery’), and it’s actually brimming with anti-oxidants and good fats.

Paneer can be frozen after it's been fried.

This amount of paneer will fry up in two batches in a large frying pan. I drained it on a paper towel and let it cool completely. Then, having none of the ingredients for Saag Paneer on hand, I added my fried cheese {swoon} to a freezer zip lock bag, as per instructions from my friend Shubh, and froze it. Apparently, freezing fresh paneer is a bad idea, but freezing fried paneer is ok. I would suspect that, as with any frozen cheese, the consistency changes slightly after freezing so that frying would be difficult. Hence, fry then freeze.

Fast forward about a week and I was able to procure the necessary ingredients to make Saag Paneer (or Palak Paneer). Hubs loves chicken saag. Neither of us have had paneer before, so I thought this would be a good introduction for us. The key ingredient here is garam masala, a traditional Indian spice blend. The blend typically includes a variety of spices like pepper, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin. I prefer natural and organic spices and I chose a garam masala made by Frontier. Different brands will have a different combination of spices so look around and choose one that has the spices you like. The recipe below makes A LOT OF SAAG. Next time around, I’ll make this in a half batch. I also made the mistake of using the entire batch of paneer- unnecessary. The recipe below reflects this adjustment. It’s also very important to salt the dish. The original recipe I based mine on called for salting after the paneer has been added, but at that point it’s hard to stir without breaking up the paneer, so salt first, then add the paneer.

 

Saag Paneer (Palak Paneer)

It's not from Little India, but it's pretty good for my first attempt at Indian cuisine.

Probably 8 servings; 1/2 recipe for smaller portion

Handy equipment: immersion blender

1 large onion
6 cloves of fresh garlic
1 oz fresh ginger
fresh cilantro, to taste
2 10oz packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup plain greek yogurt
4oz buttermilk
pinch red chili powder (adjust for spiciness desired)
1 Tb garam masala
1 C heavy cream
salt to taste
3 oz homemade paneer (defrosted if previously frozen)

Grind the onion, garlic, cilantro, and ginger into a fine paste. I used my immersion blender for this step and it was the perfect tool.

In a medium saucepan, combine the paste, spinach, yogurt, buttermilk, chili powder, and garam masala. Simmer at medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Use your immersion blender again to cream the mixture to desired consistency (you could also use a potato masher). Add the cream and simmer until the mixture has a creamy consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Add the cheese, simmer 5 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice (I flavor mine with a bay leaf, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick and a cardamom pod) and hot naan bread (homemade or store-bought).

The verdict? Well, it’s not Little India saag, but for my first attempt at Indian cuisine I was pretty pleased and I learned some valuable lessons for next time. The flavor seemed pretty authentic and I really liked the consistency of this dish. The yogurt makes it thick, so I may try to omit that next time for a creamier consistency. Like I said above, this made A LOT of food. Way too much for 2 people (we have a limit to the number of times we’ll consume leftovers before our eyes roll into out heads), so I’d certainly suggest halving this recipe and with the ratios above that’s very easy to do.

|Cook often and Eat Well!|

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|PONDERING PANEER| 01/26/2012

Filed under: cheese,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:40 pm

So I can’t quite fathom how I purchased a gallon of whole milk (with the intent to make mozzarella) and let it expire by A WHOLE WEEK! Yes, it got shoved to the back of the fridge, but I knew it was in there and had the best of intentions. How did the mistress of “Don’t waste that!” let dairy, of all things, languish in the fridge? I know, work! I’ve been on the run with some work travel that threw me off my game plan. So when I did FINALLY have a night to myself (because hubs has been working like gangbusters too and I haven’t seen him in weeks!) I decided that it was time to pour that milk down the drain…or make cheese.

I didn’t have the energy to make even 30-minute mozzarella (which is ridiculously yummy and easy) so I opted for a cheese recipe that I’d been dying to try that literally uses just two ingredients: milk and lemon juice. I have a friend who is Indian so after some recipe searching, Facebook Q&A with Shubh, and a consult with my cheese book from Stephanie I embarked on what would either be a sour milk disaster or absolutely delicious. [spoiler alert…this story is going to be continued]

First, I learned that milk doesn’t necessarily go sour if it sits unopened in the back of the fridge and passes its expiration date. Now, I wouldn’t go chugging a glass of it, but it was whole milk and I wouldn’t have done that anyway because I prefer 1%. Since cheese is made with boiled milk, I figured that anything sketchy would be boiled away and the acidity of the lemon would do the rest. I was right.

Paneer

1 gallon of whole milk (not ultrapasturized)
2 fresh lemons, juiced (about 6Tb)

In a large pot, bring milk to a boil. I scorched the bottom a bit so you might want to stir to avoid that. When the milk comes to a boil it will foam and rise quite rapidly so move off the heat quickly and stir in your fresh squeezed lemon juice (which I also strained to avoid any seed bits) for about 2-3 minutes until whey is clear. (I started with 2Tb and had to add 4Tb to get a clear whey.) Then, leave it be for about 10 minutes so curds form.

Cheese cloth... the magical kitchen tool. Like my new faucet?

Pour curds and whey into a colander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth. Then bring the corners of the cheese cloth together and tie it around your faucet to drip dry for at least 2 hours. Make sure you squeeze out the paneer as much as you can by twisting the cheesecloth before you hang it. It will be pretty hot so I’ve found that a cheapo pair of clean “cheese making only” dish gloves is a good barrier so you don’t burn yourself. If you have asbestos hands, don’t worry about the gloves.

After the curds have drip dried, you essentially have paneer. Some recipes say leave it in a bowl, still wrapped, with a weight on top for 2 hours, some say overnight. I left mine overnight, but in the morning didn’t have any residual moisture, so the drip dry is very effective. I tasted it last night and this morning (there was no difference in flavor) and it tastes like a very bland ricotta or cottage cheese. I can see why it would be the perfect canvas for Indian flavors.

If you just wanted to eat it plain, I hear that the best way to enjoy it is fried so it’s lightly browned. If you don’t want to use it right away, it’ll keep for about a keep (I unwrapped mine and put it in a plastic bag). If you want to freeze it, make sure you fry it first then freeze it.

Me? I’m going to attempt saag paneer – that lovely Indian spinach dish. Hubs usually gets chicken saag from our favorite Indian restaurant and I’ve never been bold enough to try an Indian dish from scratch – talk about a complex array of |fresh herbs| and spices – so I think it’s time I tackle my fear…

{I must just pause here for a moment to record what’s happening in front of my house. It’s snowing, and the plows are finally out and about. Well, the guy driving the one that keeps passing my house broke his plow. I keep hearing a loud BOOM when he drops his plow…a BEEP BEEP BEEP when he backs up to see what happened…and lots of man-type GUFAW as the plow operators try to figure out what’s causing the BOOM. They’ve finally given up and driven off}

…anyway. So yes, I’m going to attempt saag with homemade paneer as soon as my jar of garam masala arrives in the mail. This post will have a follow up so stay tuned!

[Cook often and eat well!]

 

|BUFFALO GAL| 01/10/2012

Filed under: cheese,Salad — |FreshHerbs| @ 8:04 pm

I love anything buffalo. I’m a sucker for it…and I thought of this vinaigrette tonight while I was on the bike at spin class. I knew I should have a salad for dinner…but I really wanted buffalo chicken. No pictures for this one (because I ate it too fast)… but I wanted to remember how I created it.

Chicken Salad with Buffalo Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette
Serves 2 (can be modified based on need)

1 cooked chicken breast, sliced
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
Tomato (any size)
Bleu cheese crumbles
1/2 sprig scallions, finely chopped (white parts and a little green)
2 Tb Frank’s Red Hot
1 Tb ketchup
EVOO
salt
pepper

Pile washed and chopper romaine on a plate and divide the sliced chicken between two plates. Add tomato to your liking. In a small bowl, whisk together ketchup and Frank’s, add scallions. Slowly drizzle in EVOO while whisking to emulsify. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and about 1 Tb bleu cheese crumbles. Pour dressing on top of salad and add a few more bleu cheese crumbles.

Very easy to adjust to personal taste. I add ketchup to cut the heat of the Frank’s.

Like wings…but healthier!

[Cook often and eat well!]

 

|PIZZA FRIDAY: TOPPINGS| 06/29/2011

Filed under: BASIL,cheese,OREGANO,Pizza,Savory,THYME — |FreshHerbs| @ 8:52 pm

Well now, I’ve gone and given you pizza dough without anything to put on it! {hand slap} But before we get to that, a word about the right equipment. I can’t tell you how many times I spent the wee hours scraping blackened, sticky, gooey “piles of would-be-pizza” off my really lovely W-S pizza stone. Ah, the trials and tribulations of the home chef… My mother has always sworn by a well-oiled stone. Not for me. I always found the more I oiled, the more rancid the smell which permeated the kitchen/oven/other baked goods. [If you know that rancid smell of which I speak, and have a high quality stone, you can actually clean the stone quite well by running it through the self-cleaning oven cycle.  The super high temp bakes the crappies right out of the stone. Looks practically new!]

The best way I’ve found to get pizza on and off the stone is to actually assemble the pizza and cook it on tinfoil. I still get the crispy goodness that pizza crust is capable of without the mess and residue on my stone (plus you can wrap leftovers in the foil). The key is to heat the stone up with the oven. Putting cold dough on a cold stone then putting it in the hot oven just fuses the dough to the stone. THAT’S where I was going wrong all these years. You will need to use a peel (that paddle thing that pizzerias use to slide their pizzas in/out of their pizza ovens) to get your tinfoil/pizza combo onto the stone. I don’t have a peel so I use an air bake cookie sheet. Presto!

So rolling out your dough is key. Liberally flour a clean space on your counter, and dust your dough ball. Flatten the dough by hand into a thick disk (or square if you prefer) and then get out your rolling pin. The dough will have a tendency to shrink back into itself as you roll if it’s too cold, so make sure its close to room temp. Roll the dough out into your desired shape, flipping the dough to roll on both sides. Transfer to your peel lined with enough foil to cover your stone and fit your dough. And now, we top…

If I discover a really good recipe for homemade pizza sauce I’ll share it {mental note to look for one} but I’ve found a favorite store bought sauce that I adore so I keep it simple [remember, it’s PIZZA FRIDAY!]. I’ve experimented will all kinds of pizzas flavor combos and that’s the great thing about having pizza every week- experimentation! I sometimes even smear the dough with pesto before I add the sauce.

I like to sprinkle a little grated parmesan  over the sauce and then on top of the pie before it heads into the oven. Gives it a nice, cheesy depth of flavor. I like experimenting with mozzarella (store bought and from-scratch), pizza cheese combos from the market, and goat cheese. Those are my go toos.

As for toppings beyond the basics, I’m all for |Fresh Herbs| like basil, but I make a dried herb topping that I call “pizza shake” that’s an eyeballed mixture of:

dried oregano
garlic powder
dried basil
dried thyme 

I shake that all over every pizza I make. So grab your sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, pepperoni, leftover chicken, artichokes, caramelized onions, peppers, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers… you get the picture.  Experiment, have fun!

Do I run the risk of eating too much pizza? Of taking the fun out of looking forward to pizza because I know its coming every Friday? Maybe, but I’m willing to take the risk…what are you having for dinner this Friday night? Cook often and eat well!