Thursday, August 12, 2010

Something Happy, Something Sad, but All Delicious!!

August has always put me in a fast-forward mode. Since my childhood, I've greeted the month with growing excitement - the weather started cooling down a bit after sizzling summers, we could begin to see my favorite fruits- oranges and grapes at the vendors, plus the festivities began with Teej festival around this time. I loved putting on Mehandi and going out to shop for Ghevar, Shakkarpara and red and green glass bangles with my mom. When I was very little, my dad would even string up a rope in the bedroom doorway to make a jhoola for me to swing on. Teej meant Rakhi was around the corner, bringing forth another round of festivities and other goodies to enjoy. In the recent years, however, August has taken on a more melancholic symbolism for me. It reminds me of our days in the hospital, waiting on my dad in the ICU and our nights at home praying for his recovery. I still wait for Rakhi as before, not only for the festivities, or because I miss my bro, but because I can't seem to forget that that was our last celebration as a family with my dad. Now I just wish for the month of august to roll by fast, so I can banish my ghost of memories into a dark closet.

My feeling of sadness has cast a seemingly permanent shadow of gloom over me these past few weeks. And this is what prompted me, yesterday, to cook dinner with Paneer; a favorite with both my dad and baby brother. Paneer is probably the only form of cheese that is a made in India. It is basically separated milk solids, with no process of maturing or processing involved. You can buy it at ethnic grocery stores around US, or even make it at home, like I did. For this kind of a prep, I really feel that the home made Paneer is better, since you can control the moisture content to your liking. So lets get cooking.
Paneer ki Bhurji (Scrambled cheese)
Whole Milk : 1/2 gallon
Lemon juice : 3tbsp
Onion : 1 medium chopped
Capsicum: 1 chopped
Tomatoes :2 chopped
Green chillies :2-3 chopped
Ginger : 1 inch piece chopped
Salt : 1/2tbsp...or to taste
Turmeric powder : 1/4tsp
Red chilli powder :1/4tsp
Cumin seeds : 1tsp Vegetable oil : 1tbsp
  1. Making the Paneer is the longest part of this recipe. You make break this part into a 2-day span, like me. Or at least give it 4-5hrs. Bring your milk to a full boil in a heavy bottomed pan and then turn down the heat to medium-low. Put the lemon juice into the boiling milk, 1tbsp at a time. You will see the separation of the cheese within minutes. Leave the pan on low heat for a couple more minutes after adding all the lemon in, and then turn off the stove. Let the whole thing cool for an hr or so. Whole milk tends to work better for making paneer. You get a creamier texture and more quantity than the same amount of 2% milk.
  2. Take a sieve, or line a colander with cheese cloth. Strain your milk-lemon juice mixture through it. The solids that you catch in the colander is your Paneer. Squeeze out the excess moisture from the cheese and let it sit for 2-3 hours. Or you can leave this in the fridge and use it within the next day or two.
  3. A small note; I promised myself I would share. You can collect the liquid drained out of making the paneer and use it in your cooking. It is chock-full of nutrients minus the fat!! I use it to boil rice, to knead dough for the rotis or in dals or soups.
  4. Now comes the easy part. In a kadai or wok, splutter cumin seeds in a tbsp of cooking oil. Add the onions and saute till translucent.
  5. Next add the chopped tomatoes, green chillies, ginger and capsicum along with salt turmeric and red chillies powder. Cover and cook for about 5 min. till the capsicum is crisp-tender.
  6. Finally add your crumbled paneer. Stir it on high for a minute or so till the whole thing resembles scrambled eggs.
Bon Appetite!!

My two cents: This is a no-fail side with anything- rotis, pooris or rice. I remember even using leftovers as a filling for grilled-sandwich or stuffed parathas. So enjoy it your way. PS. Making this for my family did ease out my gloominess a bit. And really, isn't having some memories better than having none at all? PPS. As I go on to post this, I realize that I started blogging almost exactly a year ago, with a Paneer Nargisi dish! Seriously, this is a coincidence. So seems like I've started a trend here- maybe I'll do my blog anniversaries with Paneer-related posts!!
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