Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cabbage Saag Paneer with Tofu

This is a slightly different version of the Punjab staple found at most Indian restaurants. This dish is usually made with spinach, but I prefer cabbage because it has a less-mushy texture. Also, this dish is traditionally served with cubed paneer, a type of farmers’ cheese. But because this dish is rich enough already, I prefer cubed tofu, which is lighter but provides a similar texture.

Note that if you do want to use spinach, instead of cabbage, it is an easy substitution. Use ~1¼ pounds of spinach that has been stemmed, washed and chopped. Do not blanch it in boiling water. Instead, add it raw at the same time you would add the cabbage to the onion and spices. And continue cooking after you add the spinach longer than if you were using cabbage—about 10 minutes, or until it softens.

Prep time: 2 cocktails 

½ to 1 brick of tofu, cut into 3/4” cubes (or cube up some paneer)
½ large head green cabbage, shredded
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
2-3 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin, ground or whole
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp ghee or butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches ginger, very, very finely grated with cheese grater
3 TBSP masa
12 ounces Greek or plain yogurt (full fat)
Juice of 1 lime
A handful of cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.

Brush a bit of olive oil or spray cooking spray on a cookie sheet or baking pan and place tofu cubes on pan so that individual cubes do not touch. Bake until firm and outsides begin to become nice and firm and yellowish or just beginning to brown (about 30-40 minutes).

Bring a large pot of water with a few TBSP of salt to a boil. Add cabbage and blanch it a few minutes, until the cabbage becomes a nice deeper shade of green and softens up a bit. Remove from heat, strain and rinse well. Set cabbage aside.

Combine all the dry spices into a small dish (not including salt). Heat a dry frying pan on medium heat and add spices. STIR CONSTANTLY as spices cook. Once they turn a shade or two darker than normal, remove from heat and transfer to small bowl. Add salt.

Heat ghee in a wok or large pan on medium-high. When hot, add onion. Sauté until it becomes transparent, about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, ginger and spice/salt mixture. Cook 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. If it begins to stick to pan, add another TBSP of ghee or vegetable oil. Add cabbage, and a couple TBSP water, reduce to medium and simmer stirring frequently. Simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently.

As cabbage cooks, in a small bowl, combine ¼ cup water and masa. Whisk well. Add mixture to cabbage. Next add yogurt, lime and tofu as well. Stir well and bring to boil.

Cook another more minute or so. Depending on how thick you like your saag, you can cook longer for a thicker dish, or add water for a lighter dish. Stir in cilantro before removing from heat. Serve hot over rice, with chapatti, or with naan.

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