At the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers market, these brilliant red cherry tomatoes from Songbird Farm
and bright green bietola greens from SLO Farm brought to mind a favorite Indian dish, saag or palak paneer. I have a go to quick palak paneer recipe from Neelam Batra's 1000 Indian Recipes that is more of a stir fry than the traditional stewed vegetable dish (which I've tinkered with before in a version with kale).
With ingredients this fresh, however, it seemed a shame to cook them at all, which inspired me to make a saag paneer salad. I chopped up the bietola leaves, halved the cherry tomatoes, and tossed them with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Then I toasted some fenugreek, cumin, and black mustard seeds in hot oil and cooked them with minced ginger, garlic, and jalapeno, and cubed paneer cheese (available at Market of Choice). I layered the flavorful cheese onto the greens and served it immediately as a refreshing accompaniment for grilled tandoori chicken (prepared with a whole fresh chicken from Out of Our Coop). The hearty bietola greens stood up well to the cheese dressing, and the salad was still delicious for lunch the next day.
Saag Paneer Salad
- 1 bunch bietola or spinach
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 inch ginger root
- 1 clove garlic
- ~3 ounces paneer cheese
- 1 green onion, large outer leaves removed
- 1/4 cup neutral oil such as grape seed
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- freshly ground black pepper
- Wash the bietola or spinach, slice the leaves into 1/4 inch strips, and discard the stems. Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes. Toss the greens and tomatoes with the lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper in a large serving bowl.
- Seed the jalapeno. Peel the ginger and the garlic. Mince all three finely (you could do this in a food processor or mini-chopper). Chop the paneer cheese into 1/4 inch cubes. Chop the white and tender inner green leaves of the green onion into narrow rings.
- Just before you are ready to serve the salad, heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the black mustard seeds, fenugreek, and cumin seeds and let them sizzle for 1 minute. Add the jalapeno, ginger, and garlic mix and cook for a minute. Add the paneer cheese cubes and a pinch of salt and saute for a minute. Add the green onions and cook for a minute. Add the garam masala and saute for a final minute, until the cheese is well coated with the spices and the oil is bubbling and fragrant.
- Pour the spiced cheese cubes and oil over the greens and tomatoes. Toss and serve.