We’re coming off our February 2021 cookbook club book (The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food by Marcus Samuelsson) and rolling into our March book (Indian-ish by Priya Krishna), so we had collard greens in the fridge and one of our favorite Indian dishes, Saag Paneer (Saag = spinach, Paneer = a non-aged soft Indian cheese made from cow or buffalo milk) on our mind.
We’ve adapted the recipe in Indian-ish for Spinach and Feta Cooked Like Saag Paneer to work with collard greens. We also made some other adjustments based on what we had in our pantry (and our desire not to have to figure out what to do with a half a lime). One thing we’ve learned about Indian cooking is that it’s pretty forgiving as long as you get a few basics right.
The hard thing is deciding what to call it. We’re going with “Saag Paneer-ish” in honor of the cookbook.
In this recipe, everything is cooked and then blended until mostly smooth so don’t worry about chopping everything up nice and pretty. Also, don’t get hung up on the size of your onion or shallot, garlic cloves or ginger—a little more or a little less won’t matter at all.
As to which cheese to use, if you can find paneer, use that. If you can’t, feta and halloumi work great, too. We are thinking mozarella could also work if that’s what you can find/have in your fridge.
Also, it’s worth finding asafetida to make the tadka, but it will be fine without it. One important note: asafetida is meant to be cooked, so don’t get tempted to shake it on as is.
What’s a tadka?
Tadka/tarka = tempering. In Indian (and Bangladeshi, Nepali, Pakistani and Sri Lankan cooking), whole (and sometimes ground) spices are tempered—cooked in oil or ghee—to release their oils and flavor. The resulting goodness is poured over cooked dishes, like Saag Paneer and Dal.
We recommend using a tadka pan or something similar as using a larger pan (especially one with straight sides) means more ends up left in the pan than poured out.