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The one vegetarian dish I always order whenever I am eating out at an Indian restaurant has to be paalak paneer. Though I may sometimes be tempted by dal makhani or baigan bharta when I look up a menu card, my final choice has to include the famous spinach gravy from North India even when I happen to order a thali meal for a quick lunch. With time, I learnt to make paalak paneer at home combining young spinach leaves from the local market and freshly made cottage cheese to match the ‘restaurant’ taste and texture of the restaurant of this favorite dish of mine. The recipe, from MyFoodStory, is one I have used many times with consistently outstanding results using minimum effort. The bright green spinach colour comes through nicely and the gravy gets much of its creamy texture from a blend of cashew nuts and tomato puree, which is best enjoyed along with a spicy masala curry and piping hot naans.

 

PAALAK PANEER

Ingredients:

5 cups spinach

1-2 green chilies

5 garlic cloves

1-inch fresh ginger

1/2 cup cashew nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil

1-inch cinnamon stick

1 dried bay leaf

2 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 large tomatoes, chopped

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

2 tablespoons kasuri methi

2 tablespoons heavy cream

200g paneer, cut into cubes

Kitchen salt, to taste

Method:

  • Blend together fresh spinach leaves, chilies, ginger, garlic cloves and cashew nuts in blender.

  • Add 1/2 cup water and blend till smooth. Heat olive oil in a pan, add cinnamon and bay leaf.

  • Add cardamom pods and saute the spices for one minute, then add minced garlic and onions.

  • Cook onions till they are translucent and add tomatoes, coriander powder and salt to the pan.

  • Mix and cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes till the tomatoes are soft. Pour in spinach mixture.

  • Add kasuri methi to the pan and mix well. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to a simmer.

  • Cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Check for seasoning and add more salt, if it is required.

  • Add cream and paneer to gravy. Mix gently so as not to break paneer and cook for one minute.

  • Ladle the palak paneer into a serving dish and serve hot with naan or rice. Makes 6 servings.

Paalak Paneer

This chicken and spinach Alfredo pasta, from Budget Bytes, is an easy and satisfying comfort meal on any day you have no more than 15 minutes to get dinner on the table. Frozen spinach works well here which is why you always need to have a bag in your freezer for emergencies. For variety, swap spinach for rocket or watercress and omit chicken or replace with sautéed mushrooms, smoked salmon or whatever protein you have on hand.

CHICKEN & SPINACH ALFREDO PASTA

Ingredients:

335g penne pasta

2 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups whole milk

168g cream cheese

3/4 cup Parmesan

1/4 tsp kitchen salt

Freshly cracked pepper

4 cups baby spinach

2 cups cooked chicken

Method:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil to cook pasta. Once boiling, add pasta and cook till al dente.

  • Drain in a colander. While pasta is cooking, prepare sauce. Add butter and garlic to a deep pan.

  • Sauté over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or just until garlic is soft and fragrant, but not brown.

  • Turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the milk to the skillet along with cubed cream cheese.

  • Heat the milk and cream cheese while whisking, until the cheese has fully melted into the milk.

  • Whisk in the grated Parmesan and continue to whisk as the sauce comes up to a gentle simmer.

  • When it reaches a simmer, the sauce will thicken. Turn heat down to low to keep sauce warm.

  • Season the sauce with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of freshly cracked pepper.

  • Add fresh spinach to the sauce and stir it in till spinach leaves have wilted and become limp.

  • Add the cooked pasta to the spinach Alfredo sauce and stir to combine. Serve it immediately.

Chicken & Spinach Alfredo Pasta

Baking a lovely green spinach quiche to help me get through the long hours of night shift was on my to-do list this week. Inspired from Smitten Kitchen, I tweaked the recipe slightly by adding left over roast chicken to the filling and using a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella along with a sprinkling of shredded parmesan cheese. Spinach is something I grew to like much later when I discovered dishes like palak paneer. Throughout my childhood I’d related spinach to something that Popeye ate to get his muscles bulging and maybe that is what made me reluctant to give this leafy green vegetable a chance. Hopefully I later became aware of its numerous health benefits and it gradually found its way into my regular ingredient list whenever I plan my grocery shopping.

SPINACH QUICHE

Ingredients:

For the Pate Brisee Crust

1 3/8 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 tablespoon granulated sugar

9 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter

3 to 5 tablespoons ice water

For the Spinach Cream Cheese Filling

85g cream cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup cooking cream

3 eggs, room temperature

250g spinach leaves, fresh or frozen

200g cooked chicken, optional

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

4 to 6 green onions, sliced

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Method:

  • Cut the cold butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Pulse flour, salt, and sugar together in a food processor.

  • Add butter, and pulse until coarse crumbs form, about 10 seconds. Add ice water in a slow stream.

  • Pulse for no longer than 30 seconds or until the dough just holds together and is not wet or sticky.

  • Shape the dough into a disk and wrap well in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

  • Press the dough into a tart or quiche pan 7-8-inch in diameter. Trim edges and save as decoration.

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth. Gradually beat in cream.

  • Add eggs and remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour the filling mixture into the prepared crust.

  • Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is set, for about 25 minutes. Cool for about 10 minutes.

  • Remove quiche from pan and cut it into wedges and serve warm as a side dish. Serves 6-8 persons.

Spinach Quiche

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