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Saag Paneer

I came across this particular recipe in the September & October 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated.  I’ve been on an Indian kick lately and for some reason was craving this for dinner.  I’ve made a different version of it before and found it to be pretty simple and straight forward.  Paneer cheese is honestly THE easiest cheese I’ve ever made.  Anyone can do it!  Just be sure to watch your pot and avoid scorching the bottom of it (like I did this time around which took many washes to finally come clean and look somewhat normal).  This dish is perfect over basmati rice with some warmed up naan on the side.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

Cheese (Paneer)

  • 3 quarts whole milk
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Spinach Sauce (Saag)

  • 1 (10 ounce) bag curly-leaf spinach, rinsed
  • 3/4 lb mustard greens, stemmed and rinsed
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained and chopped coarse
  • 1/2 cup roasted cashews, chopped coarse
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Cheese

Line a colander with a triple layer of cheesecloth and set in sink.  Bring milk to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Whisk in buttermilk and salt, turn off heat, and let stand for 1 minute.  Pour milk mixture through cheesecloth and let curds drain for 15 minutes.

Pull edges of cheesecloth together to form pouch.

Twist edges of cheesecloth together, firmly squeezing out as much liquid as possible from cheese curds.  Place taut, twisted cheese pouch between 2 large plates and weigh down top plates with heavy Dutch oven.  Set aside at room temperature until cheese is firm and set, at least 45 minutes.

Remove cheesecloth and cut cheese into 1/2-inch pieces.  (Left uncut, cheese can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Spinach Sauce

Place spinach in large microwave-safe bowl, cover, and microwave until wilted, about 3 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, chop enough spinach to measure 1/3 cup and set aside.  Transfer remaining spinach to blender and wipe out bowl.  Place mustard greens in now-empty bowl, cover, and microwave until wilted, about 4 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, chop enough mustard greens to measure 1/3 cup and transfer to bowl with chopped spinach.  Transfer remaining mustard greens to blender.

Meanwhile, melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add cumin seeds, coriander, paprika, cardamom, and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add onion and 3/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeño; cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and just beginning to stick to pan, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes and cook mixture until pan is dry and tomatoes are beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat.

Transfer half of onion mixture to blender with greens.  Add half of cashews and water; process until smooth, about 1 minute.  Return purée to skillet.

Return skillet to medium-high heat, stir in chopped greens and buttermilk, and bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until flavors have blended, 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Gently fold in cheese cubes and cook until just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle with remaining cashews and cilantro, and serve.

Bar del Corso – Seattle, WA

If I lived in Beacon Hill I’d probably frequent this spot more than I’d like to admit.  It’s got that laid back neighborhood feel while serving food that proves why it earned the title as one of the best new restaurants in Seattle.  Jerry Corso uses his impressive pizza oven to fire Neapolitan style pizzas with seasonal ingredients that will have you not wanting to share.  It’s a popular spot and because they don’t take reservations, don’t be surprised if there’s a wait but just get a glass of wine and be patient…it’s worth it!

I love octopus and tend to order it whenever I see it on a menu.  This version was well done except I felt the peperonata overwhelmed the dish, not letting the octopus stand out.  But…it was still a great dish and sopping up the leftover sauce with bread was amazing!  Our salad was perfect…there was a great balance of sweet and acidity that made all the ingredients work together.  And the pizza!!!  SO good!  I’d love to go back and try all the others but I have a feeling I would probably want to get the fungi again it was so good:)

Grilled Octopus - with heirloom peperonata

Arugula & roasted sunchokes - Pink Lady apples, pecorino, agro di mosto & extra virgin olive oil

Funghi pizza - crimini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, housemade sausage, pecorino & fontina

Sitka & Spruce : Monday Taco Night – Seattle, WA

I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to go to Sitka & Spruce let alone the Melrose Market, but I finally did and I can’t wait to go back.  What an incredible space!  I had no idea Monday nights at Sitka & Spruce are taco night but it sounded great and oh was it:)  On Monday nights, one of the S & S employees, Alvaro Candela-Najera, takes over the kitchen and makes the most amazing traditional Mexican food inspired by his hometown and travels through Mexico.

We started with the Avocado with Totopos – smashed in a mortar with serranos, onion, lime and cilantro.  The chips are made fresh in house and couldn’t have been more tasty.  It’s also served with four healthy servings of fresh Mexican cheese…holy cow…I could eat a lot of that and it was the perfect compliment to the guacamole.  For my entrée I chose the Suadero Tacos – 3 corn tortillas filled with long-cooked milk-braised beef brisket.  Whoa…those were good!  Topped with some pickled radishes, cilantro and onions, these tacos were perfect in everyday and I would definitely order them again.

Now I’m dying to go back for brunch, lunch and dinner!  Do yourself a favor and go to Monday night taco night at Sitka & Spruce.

On a nice sunny weekend day there’s nothing better than visiting the farmers market.  We are lucky to have so many close to our house.  Both the Fremont and Ballard farmers markets are on Sunday and are fairly close to each other so it’s actually easy to hit both.  Ballard caterers more to the produce and food items whereas Fremont has more vintage home wares, food trucks and prepackaged foods such as jams, cookies, etc.

Be sure to check out Hot Cakes – Molten Chocolate Cakery.  Need I say more?  These take and bake molten cakes come in personal sized mason jars that couldn’t be cuter!  Talk about a great hostess gift, birthday treat, and/or dessert for a dinner party!

You can’t go wrong with any and all of the produce.  There’s nothing better than local organic fruits and veggies.  And the eggs!  They just make me want my own chickens even more.  Someday:)

Deluxe Foods makes awesome apple butter which is great on hot biscuits or even in your oatmeal in the morning.  They also make the most interesting syrups.  The one we bought is Earl Grey which you can add to soda to make your own flavored soda.  Sounds amazing to me…can’t wait to try it!

I highly recommend going on an empty stomach which might be hard at the same time because there are temptations every turn you make but the food stalls pump out the most amazing food which should be taken advantage of for lunch.  There’s everything from gourmet quesadillas to homemade sausages to crepes.

Go to your local farmers market and support your local farms!

*We actually found these at the Fremont Farmers Market on our bike ride home:)  So good!

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company

Last May my husband and I joined our good friends Jen (of Sweet Jennies) and John for a cooking class/demonstration at The Fork at Point Reyes located on the Giacomini family owned dairy farm.

I had never been to a dairy farm nor did I understand how exactly they functioned but I learned a TON and now have even more respect for the hard workers that keep them functioning.  I also have a new respect for the cheese that they produce.  It takes some serious TLC and when done right it’s absolutely delicious.

We were encouraged to try the rind on every type and I have to say, I now enjoy eating it even more than I did before.  There’s more depth and complexity in it.  The box below is the Taste of Point Reyes which I ordered as a surprise for my husband for Christmas this year.  Their Original Blue changed his perception of blue cheese forever and I’m so glad:)  I highly recommend all of their cheese for you or as a gift for someone else.

*I’ve also included some photos of our day at the dairy farm

Granville Island Public Market – Vancouver, BC

On an eating tour of Vancouver this summer (you think I’m kidding?) we stumbled upon the Granville Island Public Market for the first time.  Having now discovered it I’m so excited to go back and spend more quality time there taking my time up and down each aisle really exploring the different stalls and vendors.  Everything looked so perfect and fresh…you can tell there’s and excellent standard of quality there.

Think Pike Place Market meets The Ferry Building in SF…that’s what this food lovers heaven is like and I love it!  Do yourself a favor and visit it on an empty stomach because there’s plenty to try and a ton of variety so you won’t want just one thing.

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