Chef Sangeeta Mistry taught an online class to benefit the Idaho Museum of the International Diaspora (IMID)(https://www.idahomid.org/ ) in the fall of 2022. With her instructions, this dish has become one of our favorites. Her version, with its mix of spices and the addition of cabbage or cauliflower, is rich and flavorful and the rice complements it perfectly.
Check out IMID! Here is a quick paragraph from their website: The Idaho Museum of International Diaspora (IMID – pronounced ‘eye mid’) is an innovative multipurpose approach to a traditional museum model that will highlight the lives of diaspora groups from within Idaho and around the world through art, food, culture, music, literature, the environment, and additional creative platforms to invite and share the human journey stories.
Palak Paneer and Jeera Rice
From the kitchen of Chef Sangeeta Mistry (My changes in parentheses)
10 oz. bag of spinach (I use up to 16 oz. and often use mixed baby greens)
¾ cup finely chopped red onion (you can substitute white or yellow onion)
¾ cup tomatoes finely chopped or processed in a food chopper, or ¾ cup diced canned
tomatoes and a little of their juice
2 (big) leaves of cabbage or 2 to 3 florets of cauliflower (frozen works too)
1” piece of ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green serrano pepper, finely diced (I use red paprika peppers from my garden)
4 Tbsp. neutral oil (I use ghee)
1 ½ tsp. juice of fresh lime
10 to 12 oz. Paneer cheese (I used Queso Fresca the other day and it worked)
2 Tbsp. heavy cream, optional for garnish (I use whole milk yogurt)
1 tsp. whole cumin
2 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. red chili powder (this is not as hot as cayenne – use ¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne)
1 tsp. garam masala powder
1 tsp. salt – or to taste
1 Tbsp. Kasoori methi crushed (also called fenugreek leaves)
Fill a big pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add cabbage leaves or cauliflower florets and let it boil for 2 minutes. Add whole bag of spinach to the boiling water; submerge it completely and let it boil for 30 seconds. Using a slotted ladle, transfer the spinach/cabbage to a blender jar. Without adding any extra water, blend it to a puree; set aside.
(Rather than boil the cabbage and spinach, I steam them for 5 minutes. This eliminates the step of ladling the veggies out of the boiling water – just transfer them from the steamer to the blender. Steaming also retains more water-soluble vitamins.)
In another medium sized pot, heat oil (or ghee) on medium heat. Once hot, add whole cumin followed by onion, ginger, garlic, and green pepper; sauté on medium low heat until the onion is golden brown, and then add tomatoes and salt.
(I sauté the cumin and onion a few minutes to give the onion time to cook well before I add the rest. This avoids the possibility of the garlic getting bitter from overcooking.)
Sauté until all the moisture is evaporated and the oil separates from the mix. At this point, add all the dry spices. Sauté for another minute then carefully add the blended spinach puree. Mix well to incorporate the masala and the gravy, cover and let it cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Finally, add the lime juice, stir well and place in a serving dish.
Add the diced paneer and, optionally, finish with a swirl of heavy cream (or yogurt).
Serve over plain or Jeera rice.
Your job will be much easier if you read through a recipe and measure out ingredients in separate bowls any time you are cooking with vegetables, herbs, and spices that are added to the dish at different times during the cooking. It takes time up front but the results are so much better than measuring each ingredient as you proceed through the recipe.
1 cup Basmati rice
2 cups water
2 to 3 Tbsp. ghee or unsalted butter
1” cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. whole cumin
1 tsp. salt (or to taste – at least ½ tsp.)
Rinse and drain the rice thoroughly in a strainer. This step is important.
In a medium cooking pot with a lid, add water and salt and bring it to a boil.
Meanwhile, in another small pot or skillet heat the ghee or butter and add the cinnamon, bay leaf, and whole cumin. Carefully add this to the rice pot.
Once the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and cook for 13 minutes. Do not open the lid. After 13 minutes of cooking, turn the heat off and let it sit for another 4 to 5 minutes before opening the lid. It is ready to serve.