Anticipation, devastation, and fulfillment (Palak Paneer)

One day I was driving home from school with my daughter in the backseat. She was kicking her feet and was just jabbering about random topics, but was obviously in a gleeful mood.

We got home, she hopped out of the car and bounded up the steps to the door. She dutifully took off her shoes and hung up her jacket and backpack. Her gibberish was more articulated now and she was sing-songing “I want my choc-o-late chip muffin.” She was definitely in a good mood and I realized that she was very intent and focused on this muffin she was singing about. She grabbed her lunch bag and tossed it on the kitchen table. She clamored up her chair, got on her knees, and unzipped her lunch bag. Her small face was practically buried in her pink lunch bag. Her whole body froze for a split second and then wailed, “WHERE IS MY CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFIN?!”

I had no idea what she was talking about. She slid from her chair and stomped/hopped over to her backpack. Her face was all red and contorted while wailing, “WHERE IS MY CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFIN?!” I asked, “What muffin? What muffin?” And through her snorts and cries, she explained, “Lyla had a birthday and she brought chocolate chip muffins and Missus ‘tagna gave me and Mason a muffin but I had to go to the bathroom and she said that I could take it home and eat it. WHERE IS IT? WHERE DID YOU PUT IT?! WAH!”

This went on for a solid 10 minutes. I could not reason with her and she didn’t want to listen to my excuses. Her muffin was gone.

I felt so horrible. In the flurry of parents and kids at pick-up time, I’m sure the muffin got lost in the shuffle and never made it out of the classroom.  That huge bubble of anticipation just burst into nothingness when the muffin was nowhere to be found. Absolute devastation for an almost-3 year old. Through snot and lingering tears, she settled for grapes and graham cracker sticks once she calmed down. Of course there were random outbursts as she sullenly nibbled her snack.

We’ve all been there, right? Hyped-up movies, New Year’s Eve, Romeo turned a**hole date, or a new recipe for your favorite dish just missing the mark (okay, a bit of a stretch…). Since last year, I’ve been on a quest to find or develop recipes for my favorite Indian takeout dishes. One of these dishes is palak paneer.  I’ve tried several recipes and being a novice with Indian cuisine , my tweaks were ineffective and resulted in numerous disappointments and lots of waste. Although my letdowns go unmatched with my daughter’s devastation, they were certainly BIG OLE BUMMERS.

A friend of mine recently gave me her recipe for palak paneer which she described as a combination of recipes that she’s tried. I willingly tried it and guess what? I have truly found “the one”.

It is perfectly balanced with its nutty, creamy, and spicy flavors. I have been known to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and once I learned how to make it, I have absolutely no guilt eating it all day.

Palak Paneer

adapted from a recipe by T. Remaiya

1 medium to large tomato, quartered
4 cloves of garlic
1/2-inch piece of ginger
Cooking oil or ghee
1-2 green chilis (I’ve omitted it, but T. has included it in her recipe)
1 lb. fresh baby spinach (the large box of salad greens works perfectly)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt
8-10 oz. paneer, cubed
4 Tablespoon sour cream

1 – In a blender, puree the tomato, ginger, and garlic. Set the mixture aside in a small bowl.

2 – Heat 1-2 teaspoons of oil or ghee in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. (If you’re including green chilis, saute the chilis until fragrant). Add the entire package of spinach and saute until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside the spinach in a blender and puree when cooled.

3 – Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil or ghee in the same skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

4 – Add coriander, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder and saute until fragrant.

5 – Add the tomato mixture, and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

6 – Add the spinach puree, garam masala and salt. Add about 1 cup of water or until you get the desired consistency – you don’t want it to be too thick or thin. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes on medium low heat.

7 – While the spinach is cooking, heat oil in another skillet. Saute paneer until lightly browned.

8 – Take spinach off the heat, stir in the paneer and sour cream.

For the naan: I took the dough from the batch I made earlier in the week. I took a ball of dough the size of a baseball and with plenty of flour, I formed a ball by tucking the edges in and under. Then on a surface dusted with flour, I rolled out the dough into an 8 to 9-inch diameter circle, 1/4-inch thick. I heated a nonstick skillet over high heat. Make sure the skillet is hot. Once it’s ready, add 1 tablespoon of ghee and lower heat to medium. Throw the circle of dough into the skillet. Cover the pan and brown for about 3 minutes. Uncover and flip until the second side is browned. Serve immediately. The same people at “Artisan Bread”, Jeff and Zoe, also have a delicious recipe for stuffed naan.

I’m also taking part in Indian Food Palooza (#IndianFoodPalooza) this month hosted by Prerna at Indian Simmer, Kathy of The Colors of Indian Cooking, and Barbara of Creative Culinary. Check out what others have cooked!


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  • Sara{OneTribeGourmet}

    I love palak paneer and yours looks delcious!

  • Erica

    Eek! I just found your blog recently and now you’ve posted an easy-looking recipe for one of my FAVOURITE take-out curries! Now I have to splurge a bit and make this because it looks so yummy!

    Do you think I can get away with using greek yogurt instead of sour cream? I was thinking of whipping up some chicken korma next week and since neither is usually in my fridge I’d love to get away with just buying one of them.

    • AMY

      Hey Erica! Thanks for stopping by! The original recipe called for heavy cream, but I substituted sour cream. I think greek yogurt will work fine! Let me know how it goes!

      • Erica

        I made it last night! Yay! The greek yogurt worked out well; it blended in smoothly and the curry tasted yummy, though maybe not quite what I’m looking for in a good spinach curry. And just a couple things went a tad awry.

        I don’t have an actual blender or food processor, only a hand blender, so my spinach ended up a bit chunkier than I think is ideal. Still works! I also added a bit too much tomato which dramatically changes the flavour. It turned out with an interesting tartness, aided by the yogurt no doubt, and so when I make this next I think I’ll add even less tomato than what the recipe calls for and use regular cream.

        Could you possibly put the spinach measurement in cups, or at least ounces? I’m in Canada and none of the spinach packaging says how many pounds it is. I ended up being short on spinach, when I worked out one pound is about 16 ounces. The largest spinach packages here are 11 ounce boxes (listed in grams first, of course), but this was well before dinner so I ran out and grabbed what I needed.

        Also, you forgot to list turmeric in the ingredients, though you mentioned it in the steps. I added half a teaspoon when I was making mine.

        Thanks for the great recipe!

        • AMY

          The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup tomato puree or 1 whole tomato and also 4 cups of chopped spinach. Maybe that helps a little? The 11 ounce spinach may work with the 3/4 cup of tomato puree.

          Thanks for catching the missing turmeric! I just added it to the ingredient list!

          Anyway, so glad you tried the recipe. As I tell everyone (and remind myself), recipes are just guidelines! :-)

          • Erica

            Thanks! that helps quite a bit. I usually don’t care what liquid measurements are because I’ve got a couple liquid measuring cups that do the job regardless. It’s weight measurements that tend to drive me batty, especially now that I’m away at school and forgot to “borrow” my Mum’s kitchen scale.

            Ha, by coincidence I did use one whole fresh tomato as well. I just happened to have one to use up. 😉

  • Judy | BebeLoveOkazu

    Hi Amy, Thanks for stopping by earlier. I might still need your help but I’m not sure yet. Still trying to get things organized… Your daughter sounds adorable. I think our daughters are close in age – mine will be 3 in a few months. I totally understand the devastation of losing THE muffin. :( Palak paneer is one of my favorites to order at our local Indian take-out but I’ve never been brave enough to try and make it myself. Yours looks delish!

    • AMY

      I feel like as soon as my daughter turned 3, the level of melodrama has also tripled. oy. vey.

      Take your time getting organized…I’ll be here! :-)

  • Ameena

    I’ve lost the “chocolate chip muffin” on more than one occasion…it’s like they leave school with 15 more things than you sent them with!

    The palak paneer looks impressive and delicious!

    • AMY

      Thanks! The dish was much easier to make than I imagined!

      And yes, I can barely keep myself organized, I’m expected to keep track for 2 other little ones?! :-\

  • Lawyer Loves Lunch

    Is it terrible to admit that I would’ve had the same reaction at the loss of a chocolate chip muffin? Though really, great idea bringing muffins instead of cupcakes for a birthday. Well, either muffins or palak paneer :)

    • AMY

      Yes, the two-bite mini muffins from Whole Foods are perfect for this occasion!

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