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bon appetit: Paneer Curry with Peas

April 8, 2010

It started with this.

I sent The Boy to the nearby Asian store last night to pick up some Trung Nguyen coffee (something we’re both addicted to). He came back with four boxes of coffee in addition to two bags of naan. I gave him a look. “What? The naan was on sale,” he replied before scurrying away. I can’t believe him sometimes. But I can’t complain since we had coffee the next morning. Plus, I had been thinking about making the Paneer Curry with Peas recipe that I found in the latest issue of bon appetit.

Aside from samosas, I’ve never made Indian food so I was a little intimidated. In the process, however, my nervousness subsided as I learned some pretty nifty things.

1. Rice is super cool when it comes in a pouch you can hand carry (and then later store away with ease).

Rice in a purse

2. Rice doesn’t always have to be cooked in a rice cooker. It can be (gasp) made stove top. (Don’t tell my mom.)

Rice cooker on a break today

3. When making a dish that is totally foreign to you, ask those who are not foreign to the recipe for their suggestions. My friend Jenny, for instance, told me it’d be okay to substitute oil for ghee. She did, however, tell me I was a poser for using tofu instead of paneer.

Jenny at her recent engagement ceremony (ganesh puja)

I got a second opinion from my coworker, who said to go ahead and use tofu since a lot of Indian stores end up selling tofu to unsuspecting customers anyway. (I don’t know if this is true, but I’ll take her word for it since I really wanted to avoid using paneer.) My post-cooking consensus: tofu works in this recipe.

Tofu: good for the lactose intolerant

4. The recipe calls for garam masala – a curry blend of spices. Find a recipe (I, of course, forgot to consult with Jenny and my coworker on this one) and make it in a coffee grinder. The smell is worth it.

DIY garam masala

5. I like everything on this cutting board. So does The Boy.

(from left to right): green (duh) serrano chili, garlic and ginger

6. bon appetit did well with this recipe.

The final product: Paneer Curry with Peas (mmmmm . . .)

The Boy’s Reaction: “This is really delicious!!!!”

Paneer Curry with Peas

From the April 2010 issue of bon appetit (my notes in red)

2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 pound paneer or firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch cubes  (I used tofu . . . honestly, I couldn’t taste a difference. I will probably use tofu when I make “paneer” again.)
5 tablespoons usli ghee, divided (I used olive oil. I think it takes away the richness that the ghee provides but I liked the lighter end result. I’m glad Jenny gave me the “clearance” to do this.)
1 large onion, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 serrano chile, minced with seeds
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 1 1/2 pounds peas in pods) or 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Steamed basmati rice

Place flour in medium bowl. Add paneer to bowl; toss to coat with flour. Heat 2 tablespoons ghee in heavy large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Shake excess flour from paneer; add to skillet and cook until browned in spots, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes. Transfer paneer to plate; set aside. Reserve skillet.

Place onion pieces in processor. Using on/off turns, process until finely chopped but not watery. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons ghee in reserved skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and stir until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add chopped onion and cook until beginning to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add minced ginger, minced garlic, ground coriander, and minced serrano chile with seeds; stir 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes with puree, 1/2 cup water, and turmeric; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium low; cover and simmer until mixture thickens slightly and flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

FYI – Between the onions and chile, my eyes were severely watering up. I might be a wuss though.

Add shelled fresh peas and cooked paneer; gently fold to incorporate evenly. Cook mixture over medium-low heat until peas are tender and paneer is heated through, folding occasionally, about 5 minutes. Fold in garam masala and cilantro. Season curry to taste with salt (ended up using about 2 teaspoons) and pepper. Serve with steamed basmati rice.

Basmati Rice

This is “my” recipe (aka  I asked Jenny how she made it)

2 cups dry basmati rice*
2 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 cups of water

Place rice into bowl and cover with water. Set aside for 30 minutes before draining.

Over medium-high burner, heat oil and add cumin seeds. Cook seeds for about 2 minutes. Add rice (without water) until cumin is evenly stirred through. Add four cups of water and bring to a boil. Decrease stove to medium low and let cook for approximately 20 minutes. Add salt if desired.

*This is how much rice I made but it proved to be too much. You can cut this recipe in half if you don’t want a quart-full of leftover rice.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2010 1:52 pm

    I’m so touched…sniff, sniff:)

  2. Nita permalink
    March 7, 2011 1:07 pm

    Tofu and paneer are as different as night is from day. If you can’t tell the difference, you should try to eat them raw and get acquainted with the taste. Besides, I’ve never seen any Indian store selling off tofu as paneer.

    • March 7, 2011 1:20 pm

      Hi Nita, I’m lactose intolerant and tofu is a good substitute for me. No harm, no foul.

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