The Indian in the Cupboard: Palak Paneer


If South Indian cuisine is the Washington fare of India (fresh, light, lots of fish and seafood), then North Indian food is down-home Texas (rich, creamy and heavy). Most Indian restaurants you’ll find will be North Indian and boast menus of buttery, starchy goodness. Butter chicken, tikka masala, jalfrezi, biryani, roti, naan – it’s all enough to drive a girl mad with food-lust. But, of course, there is one North Indian dish that shines on a pedestal of deliciousness in my heart, far above the rest: Palak Paneer. Creamy, sweetly spiced spinach surrounds chunks of soft paneer (a mildly flavored Indian cheese). Its dangerously delicious flavor is capable of sending anyone into a proper comfort-food coma. But I like to live dangerously, so let’s cook.

2-7 oz. Packages of Paneer (cubed)
2 Bunches of Spinach (blanched and finely chopped)
5 Tbsps. Olive Oil (vegetable oil or ghee would also work)
½ Large Jalapeno (finely chopped)
1 ¼ tsp. Turmeric Powder
½ tsp. Cayenne
1 Clove of Garlic (minced)
½” – 1 ½” Piece of Fresh Ginger (peeled and minced)
1 Medium Onion (finely chopped)
2 Medium Tomatoes (large dice)
¾ tsp. Garam Masala
Pinch of Asafoetida
Pinch of Red Chili Powder
1 Bay Leaf
1 Curry Leaf
1 Heaping tsp. Coriander (ground)
1 Scant tsp. Cumin (ground)
2-3 Tbsps. Heavy Cream or Yogurt


  1. Mix 1 tsp. turmeric, cayenne, salt and 3 Tbsps. oil in a large bowl. Drop in cubes of paneer and gently toss. Set aside.


    Fried Paneer!

  2. Rinse spinach well. Boil about 6 cups of water in a large saucepan with ½ tsp. of salt. When water is boiling, turn off heat, and drop in spinach leaves. Cover pot with lid and leave for 2-3 minutes. Extract spinach from boiling water, using a colander, and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. Leave in ice water for a minute or two, then drain the leaves.
  3. At this point, it may be easiest to toss your spinach into a food processor and blend into a coarse puree. I, however, live sans food processor and thusly get to do it the old fashioned way! Huzzah! – Finely chop the aforementioned spinach by hand, using only your sharpest kitchen knife and the will to laugh in the face of modern technologies.
  4. We’re ready to cook! Heat a large frying pan on medium high. Carefully add marinated paneer to hot pan. Toss cubes until all sides are a light, golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Add about 2 Tbsps. of olive oil (or ghee) to your pan. Add onion, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno. Sauté ingredients until they are a deep, golden brown. With a cup of water at the ready, add the remaining spices. Splash mixture with water, as needed, to keep spices from burning. A thick paste will form. Keep it moving for a few minutes, until spices permeate the air with a distinct, strong aroma.
  6. Add spinach to pan with ½ cup water. Add tomatoes. Simmer for 4-8 minutes, adding water as needed to keep mixture moist.
  7. Slowly add cream, stirring constantly, and salt to taste. Cover and let simmer for about another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Serve over basmati rice, with naan, paratha or roti. Enjoy!

*For all my vegan buddies out there, replace paneer with 1 package of extra firm tofu and cream with canned coconut milk. The substitutions will totally still work with the recipe. Yay!

In the Kitchen with Jill

20120613-DSC02484The task at hand for me this New Year is to stretch the ole mighty dollar. Oh I could tell you that this is because I want to save money and pay off credit cards, but the truth is I want to take a vacation. A real vacation where I have to buy a bathing suit and new flip flops.  I want to sip on a tropical drink and read a book, while my feet nestle in the warm sand.  Looking at my biggest expenses, I realized that there were two that I could reduce without feeling a great deal of sadness or loss.  One is my food budget and the other is my unbudgeted earring spending. No, I am not giving up delicious food, or beautiful mercantile adornments to wear, I am just re-evaluating what I spend, and how I use it. Read more In the Kitchen with Jill …

In the Kitchen with Jill…

haridraThe bitter cold days of last week are hopefully behind us, far, far behind us. My body did not enjoy that cold blast at all. In fact, it rebelled. Not caring how many layers I put on, it mocked me with a hardy, ” that’s all you got?” Speaking of hardy, this is always the season for robust and full-flavored foods; warming our tummies and settling into our winter waistlines.

Working as a cashier, my secret pleasure is looking at your groceries and making a meal out of what you have purchased. Creepy? Nah, fun!  Eggs, Texas toast and milk… French toast. Lemons, cayenne and maple syrup… New Years master cleanse resolution (a little early, dude. Enjoy the fruit cake while you can). You see the game?

Of late, we have had an abundance of fresh turmeric come across our conveyor belts and this one stymies me. Yes I know the medicinal attributes are amazing ( digestion, circulation, inflammation) but my question is, what are they doing with it? What’s a girl in the kitchen to do? Experiment! Here is a drink that I made with turmeric that was delish and amazingly good for you. So if those frigid days come a callin’, I’ll be ready…sort of.

Turmeric Tea

1 cup Coconut milk (or almond)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp fresh grated turmeric (be warned, it stains! wear gloves)

1/8 tsp nutmeg

A dash of cayenne

Honey to taste

Put coconut milk, spices and honey in a sauce pan and heat up slowly on low heat.  If you put it on high heat the coconut milk will get too thick. Pour and drink!

In the Kitchen with Jill…


My Dad makes cookies in the shape of trains! So cute!

Once my grandmother made a cake in the shape of a lamb for Easter. It had coconut flakes for its coat and jelly bean eyes; I remember thinking this was the greatest things ever cooked in oven. The taste was what dreams are made of.  She also could make a German chocolate cake that was so spectacular it could bring you to tears. On the flip side, she would cook our thanksgiving turkey for 15 hours, rendering it shoe leather.

My mother can take 5 ingredients and whip up a Michelin star-worthy meal. She can bedazzle any ingredients and create magic. On her flip side, she can make biscuits that send you to the dentist for a new crown.

My dad makes a Black Forest Cherry cake that he puts so much effort into that for the curled chocolate, he whips out his favorite tool, the puddy knife, and carves perfect spirals for the outside of the cake.

My point here is that passion and great results go hand-in-hand when cooking and baking. My mother could care less about the perfect cookie, but her table is set to brilliance and her food is spectacular. My grandmother didn’t eat sugar. She put all her love for it into her baked goods for her family; her idea of a good dinner involved reservations. My dad is an engineer, so he is precise and accurate in his baking, which makes for a great baker.

This weeks In the Kitchen is all about what I love… cookbooks! They inspire, they teach, and, most of all, they make things attainable. When you are new to cooking, attainable and taste worthy are certainly the first step to passion.


Cheryl in our Mercantile department has made over 100 recipes using Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. She has passion for this book; you can see it when she brings something in that she has made. She would love to share it with you, so seek her out if you have any questions.

The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals are sister cookbooks. Written by Alissa Segersten, a Washington local,  is brilliant, with amazing gluten free recipes. Each of these books can be found upstairs in your mercantile department.  They make great gifts too.

I hope you find your passion and play with your food!


In the Kitchen with Jill…

photoThis year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fall on the same day. How unusual is it? Well, the last time Thanksgiving and Hanukkah shared the same date was 125 years ago — and it won’t happen again for another 76,000 or so years. So it’s kind of special.

Growing up I celebrated both holidays, and I have to say celebrating Hanukkah for kids is pretty awesome! There are gold coins, yummy treats to eat and did I mention all the presents? Now Hanukkah is really not considered a high holy day for most Jews, so really, it’s for the kids.  Coming from a mixed marriage, one parent celebrating Hanukkah and the other Christmas, I must admit I always felt more Jew-“ish” then Jewish. I only went to temple when friends were having their Bat/Bar Mitzvahs, I only celebrated Shabbat when spending the night on Fridays with friends, and I went to Jewish summer camp mostly because they had an awesome swimming pool and my mom could get me transportation there and back.

Now, I am not sure of the nature/nurture concept here, but I can say that I do carry some of the traits from my Jewish side of the family. Read more In the Kitchen with Jill… …