I am a fan of Indian cuisine, especially for its vegetarian content. One of my favorite recipes is Kashmir Spinach with Paneer. Kashmir is in northwestern India and spinach, or palak as it is called in Hindi, is very popular in the region. Mixing palak with paneer, a fresh cheese popular throughout South Asia, is very common. In fact, in Kashmir the dish is known as palak paneer. In every case, the paneer is deep-fried and served with the spinach
But what if you don’t have any paneer cheese on hand? So, improvisation is in order. Why not use tofu instead? To my surprise, the dish works very well with beancurd. It is just as tasty, and healthy. As with the original, we serve it over rice, and it makes for a great vegetarian dinner. The spices present in the dish are perfect in livening up the neutral tofu flavor. No other enhancement is required.
Let me add that this recipe is spicy. You can use just one green chili or skip it altogether. You can make it as hot or as mild as desired. Either way, enjoy.
KASHMIR SPINACH WITH TOFU
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin powder
¼-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and mince
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
4-5 cardamom pod
½ teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons fennel seed powder
3 Serrano chilies, slit along their length
1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Salt to taste.
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, washed and cut into ribbons
¾ teaspoon cornstarch, made into a slurry with a few tablespoons of water
1. Heat oil in a wok or pan on medium-high flame. When it simmers, add cumin, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, garam masala, 1 teaspoon of fennel seed powder, and green chilies. Toss mixture with oil.
2. Add tofu and stir the mixture until the beancurd is covered with spices and oil. Add salt to taste.
3. Add about 1 ½ cups water to pan. Gently mix, cover and bring to a boil.
4. Lower heat to simmer. Uncover, and sprinkle over the remainder of the fennel seed powder. Stir in the spinach. Add cornstarch and stir to mix.
5. Cover and simmer for another 4-5 minutes, until spinach is wilted. Serve with steamed rice.
Yield: 4-6 servings.