Puanani and the perfect paneer

Puanani is one of the most talented and inspiring people you could ever meet. She's an amazing artist, a brilliant cook. Needless to say, we adore her. I met her in Hawaii when I was 9 years old. She was a friend of my mothers and babysat me on occasion. She taught me how to draw the perfect plumeria flower and how to bake bread. Her rustic and beautifully styled home moved me, even as a kiddo. I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. She made all her food from scratch. She makes you a biscuit, it'll be the best biscuit you've ever tasted. Seems that that goes for everything she touches. I swear to you, she was kinfolk before there was a kinfolk. When I was little I told her, I know i'm nine but i want to be your REAL friend. She really is that special.

Fast forward 22 years and we are great friends indeed.

Recently we made a trip to visit her in Portland. Our adorable little guest room was decorated all in white and filled with perfect little thrifted treasures.  We woke up every day to hand foamed cappuccinos and baked breads.. This woman needs her own bed and breakfast, like, NOW. We never wanted to leave.

Puanani kindly gave us her recipe for the most ridiculously tasty spinach and curd subji we've  ever tasted.  Enjoy!

Spinach And Curd Subji

Feeds 6

Making Curd

1-Gallon Whole Milk

1/2-Gallon Buttermilk

Several layers of grocery store cheesecloth or a large thin piece of linen.

Boil entire gallon of milk in a large, heavy bottomed pot.

Make certain there is an ample amount of room at the top of the pot for boil over and the addition of the buttermilk.

Watch milk carefully.

Cleaning a bunch of spilled milk from the stovetop is a real bummer.

When milk begins to boil, turn off the fire and slowly add the cold buttermilk.

The goal is to have the milk solids separate from the whey, leaving fluffy, fat curds and light yellow to clear whey.

Line a large colander with the linen or several layers of cheesecloth. If you dampen the cloth first, it will prevent it from slipping around when adding the hot curds and whey.

*Note: Here you may simply drain the curds and whey into the sink, catching only the curds. However, the whey is an amazing ingredient to have on hand for rice and other grain dishes. Just put a bowl under the colander to catch the whey and remove for draining.

Drain the curds and whey into the colander.

Gather the cheesecloth together, forming a ball and carefully squeeze out the extra whey. Be careful, it is hot.

On a large baking sheet with a lip, arrange the curd into a flat circle onto the sheet while still wrapped in the cheesecloth.

Fill the milk pot with water and balance on the flat circle of curd.

This will press the curd into a large cake. Leave it pressing while you prepare the spinach portion of the dish.

For spinach-

Four large bags of pre-washed spinach or many bunches of fresh. With fresh spinach you will need to remove all of the sand from the spinach. This requires for or five soakings in a clean water bath. So I use pre-washed.

Sour Cream-one 16oz container

2 Tablespoons Turmeric

2-3 Tablespoons Ground Coriander

1-teaspoon hing (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Steam spinach, it will decrease in volume, so add more if you feel it isn’t enough.

When wilted, drain spinach. To get all of the water out, you can press a bowl into the colander to squeeze the excess water out of the spinach.

Throw entire container of sour cream into a large pot.

Add all spices.

Cook until the turmeric turns a bright yellow, the longer you simmer the spices, and the more the flavor and color will bloom.

Add drained spinach.

Curd-

Remove pot from pressed curd.

Remove cheesecloth.

Place curd patty onto a cutting board and cut into bite sized pieces.

At this point, it is perfectly acceptable to throw the curd into the cream and spinach mixture as is…or you can deep fry the curd bites in fresh ghee, then toss them into the pot.

Give it a gentle stir to incorporate all of the ingredients. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with basmati rice and spicy mango pickle.

A few notes:

Curd is another name for paneer.

This can be made without sour cream, just sauté the spices in ghee, but what is the fun in that?

Subji is a North Indian word used to describe any dish of cooked vegetables.

Once you have made the curd, there are endless ways to use it!

Curds and whey, the product just before you drain it, is a lovely evening snack for little ones. Add some maple syrup to it and it is the perfect nighttime tonic for a cranky toddler. Little Miss Muffet was a fan…

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