You hear lots of cooks and food nerds talking about how the idea for dishes comes to them unbidden while looking at the food in the store. And that happens to me, too, but I don't just take inspiration from fresh foods.
Here's the deal. I was planning on making a variation on palak paneer. We'd already made one milk gallon's worth of fresh paneer. I'd bought the spinach. But we were at Cub, picking up some other needs, and I contemplated... cheating. I was poking at the simmer sauces in the Indian aisle, and I saw a couple of different things for jalfrezi. Looking at the ingredients, I saw it was a curry based around tomato, sweet red bell pepper, and coconut. Well, I had those things.
So the plan was, start with a jalfrezi-esque sauce, add lots of spinach and the paneer, and end up with a freakish hybrid curry that tastes great. If you want to try this, you'll need:
- One small yellow onion
- One large or two small jalapenos
- Two medium red bell peppers
- One small head of fresh garlic
- Two to three inch piece of fresh ginger
- 2 tablepoons fresh cilantro
- About a pound of paneer
- One can of coconut milk
- One can of diced tomatoes
- At least a pound of spinach
- 2 tbsp curry powder/garam masala
PREP: Crush the garlic. Mince the onion and the jalapenos. Grate the garlic. Chop the cilantro. Small dice the red bell pepper. Open the cans.
Cube the paneer. If you made the paneer late in the afternoon, the paneer will crumble and eventually disperse itself into its curds in the sauce. If not, go with about half inch cubes. Chop your spinach if you like, but it's fine to leave it whole.
COOKING: Get a large pot or dutch oven heating on the stove. Once it's good and hot, add the onion, garlic, ginger, jalapenos, red bell pepper, and cilantro. Saute until good and softened, 6-8 minutes. Like all my recipes, assume you're sprinkling salt to season along the way.
Add the tomatoe and the curry powder. Use your favorite, depending on how much heat you want to add. I used a mild one. Cook for another 6-8 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down and the whole thing approaches the consistency of a chunky sauce.
Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the coconut milk and stir it through. Then fill the pot with fresh spinach, stirring it through until it wilts down. Repeat with a second pot-full of spinach, and possibly a third, depending on the size of your pot and how spinachy you want it. I probably used somewhere between a pound and a pound and a half of fresh spinache when all was said and done.
Once the spinach is all wilted down, add the paneer, gently stir it through the sauce and spinach, and simmer, on low, 15-20 minutes. The sauce should be fairly thick, about the consistency of a spaghetti sauce, but chunky with the vegetables and the paneer. Adjust your salt level and serve over rice. Makes about 8 servings.