2tablespoonscoconut oil (or ghee, or vegetable oil)
1large bunch chard
1medium yellow onion
1 1/2teaspoonsminced fresh ginger
1teaspoonwhole cumin seed
1large clove garlic, peeled and minced
3/4cupgreek yogurt (I used full fat, but I think any percentage would work)
juice of half a lemon
spiced (or other) rice (recipe in notes)
a handful cilantro leaves
Melt the oil in a wide skillet over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the cheese cubes in a single layer, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let the cheese brown on the first side, 3-5 minutes. It will spit and hiss, so be careful. Loosen the cheese with a thin, metal spatula, and flip each cube onto a second side. Let brown on the second side, 3-5 more minutes, then sprinkle with a bit of salt and remove the cheese to drain on a double layer of paper towels.
If the oil in the pan burned or smoked, pour it out, wipe out the pan, and add another tablespoon of oil; otherwise, you can leave the oil in the pan for the next step.
Use a sharp paring knife to slice the chard leaves off of the stems. Trim away the tips of the stems and rinse them well, rubbing off any sand. Slice each stem in half, then chop into 1/4" lengths. Set the stems aside. Give the chard leaves a rough chop, then soak them in a large bowl of cool water, swishing occasionally to loosen any dirt or sand clinging to them.
Heat the oil over a medium flame until it shimmers, then add the chard stems, onion, ginger, cumin, garlic, chile flakes and turmeric. Saute, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes, then add 1/4 cup water and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover the pan and let the mixture sweat until the chard stems are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, lift the chard leaves out of their soaking water and place them in a large saucepan or soup pot with water still clinging to them. Cover the pot and place it over a medium flame. Steam the chard until the leaves are just wilted and bright green; this will only take a few minutes. Scoop the leaves into a strainer, rinse with cool water, and squeeze out most of their liquid. (Alternately, chop the raw leaves and add them directly to the stems, cover with a lid, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are tender, 10-15 minutes.)
Chop the leaves fairly finely, then stir them into the onion mixture. Stir in the yogurt, milk, and cheese cubes, gently heat through over a low flame, then remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Taste, adding more salt or lemon juice if needed to bring up the flavors.
Serve the saag paneer over rice, garnished with cilantro and lemon wedges to squeeze over the top
With inspiration from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks, Reza Mahammad's Rice, Spice and All Things Nice, and Smita Chandra's From Bengal to Punjab: The Cuisines of India.Update 12/17/13: I just made a version of this using roasted potatoes and cauliflower in place of the cheese - deliciousness!The extra step of wilting the chard separately helps to keep the color of the greens bright; but you can add the chopped leaves directly to the stems if you prefer.The paneer I get comes in 14 ounce blocks, so I use 7 ounces per batch of saag paneer, which is on the high side of the cheese to greens ratio. Feel free to dial down the cheese factor, if you like, or make your own paneer. Halloumi makes a decent substitute; it is more flavorful, but melts more as it fries.Serve this with spiced rice (recipe below); put the rice on first, as it benefits from standing for 10-20 minutes after it cooks to absorb steam.Aromatic spiced rice recipe: 1 1/4 cups long-grain white rice (preferably basmati) 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or ghee, butter, or vegetable oil) 1 cinnamon stick 5 black peppercorns 2 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed 5 coins of fresh ginger, 1/4" thick 2 1/2 cups water 1/2 teaspoon saltPlace the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water for 30 seconds, shaking the strainer to wash the starches off of the grains. Drain well.Heat the oil in a medium saucepan set over a medium flame until it shimmers. Add the cinnamon, peppercorns and cardamom, then the rice, and cook for 1 minute, stirring to coat the rice and toast it evenly. Add the ginger coins, water and salt, give it a stir, then bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to very low, cover the pot, and let the rice steam, without stirring, until tender and all the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, 10-20 minutes, then gently fluff with a fork and serve. You can remove the whole spices if you like, but I like the occasional surprise of biting into a whole peppercorn. It keeps life exciting.Nutritional values are based on one of four servings.