Hysterical over palak paneer

Palak paneer is one of my favorite Indian dishes, and I have a great slow-cooker recipe for it. But first, I feel the urge to share a story that perhaps no one will find very funny but which will certainly go down in Boyd family history.

Sunday afternoon often means Leftover Lunch at the Boyds’ house. Jon and I had been working on finishing up some of this terrific palak paneer (which is spinach curry with Indian cheese) and homemade naan while the girls enjoyed hot dogs with ketchup. (I have high hopes that they’ll someday enjoy curries, but it is not this day.)

We were listening to Glenn Gould’s recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and Jon was particularly enjoying it, playing air-piano along with Glenn, while I washed a few dishes and refrigerated extra food. I handed Jon a big container of leftover palak paneer and two Ziploc bags, saying, “Jon, this is too much to freeze in one portion. Can you divide it in two?”

A bad case of the giggles

I knew he heard me, but he kept on playing that air-piano. No problem, I knew he’d get to it when the piece finished. But Lucy picked up on his seeming lack of attention and said, “Papa, you are ignoring Mama!” Jon replied, in a form of misinformational humor he practices, “No, I heard her. Mama wants me to eat this huge container of palak paneer, then barf it into these two plastic bags so we can freeze it.” I began laughing pretty hard at this point. That Jon Boyd, he just cracks me up!

Now, one of our daughters’ favorite activities is getting Mama or Papa to laugh. Lucy saw that I was getting the giggles and wanted to join in the fun. So she turned to me and said, “Mama, I’m going to eat all of this stuff, then garf it into those bags!” That really fanned the flames. I began weeping and squealing with laughter. (Even as I write this, I am giggling again!)

Garf! What a fabulous word! And if you could hear Lucy say it, with such a true-blue Chicago accent…. Oh man, I was lucky I had just peed or surely I would have wet my pants. Rosie, of course, began adding her contribution to the garf-fest, and for several minutes the girls kept telling me about how they were going to “garf” the palak paneer into the bags. When we were all done, I had little Kleenex crumbs all over my face from wiping away the tears of mirth.

But seriously

Back to the curry. This is an awesome, easy slow-cooker palak paneer that yields ample leftovers, which freeze very well. This was my first experience making homemade paneer. It wasn’t very hard, but I think I will try to make it a day ahead next time as the texture really seems to firm up with an overnight in the fridge. (Or I might just use some ricotta cheese.)

We also made some homemade naan bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I’ll have to talk about that book more fully another day, but for now let me say that, if you have a batch of their bread dough in the fridge, it fries up into naan very quickly — perfect for a weeknight!

Palak Paneer

This is a very easy recipe for curried spinach with cheese. I made the paneer cheese once at home (and it is really not that hard), but other times have purchased it, or simply dolloped some ricotta cheese on top (not authentic, needless to say), or just done without.

This recipe makes a large quantity — about 10 cups. It freezes well (without the cheese). You’ll want to use a pretty big slow-cooker with this, probably a 5-quart one. You can halve the recipe without ill effects.

2 lbs frozen chopped spinach, thawed and at least somewhat drained
2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
20 cloves of garlic, peeled
5-10 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chilies, stems removed (I omitted this in a desperate, futile hope that our children might try a bite)
4 tablespoons ground cumin
1 heaping tablespoon chili powder
1 heaping tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon salt

Put everything except salt into the slow cooker. Cook on high for three hours, stirring once or twice. It will look brown and gross, but don’t worry about this — it will taste awesome. After three hours, blend the mixture; I use an immersion blender, but you can use a regular blender. Make sure the large chunks of ginger are broken down. Return the purée to the slow cooker. Add salt and cook on low for another two hours.

To serve, fry up some paneer cheese, dollop some fresh paneer cheese (or plain ricotta — shhhh!) on it, or just serve it in a bowl. I like to eat it alongside some warmed naan (or pita can work in a pinch) or with a bowl of rice.

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