I’ve been working my way through some recipe requests lately, and it’s been so much fun! This recipe in particular really got me out of my comfort zone, and we’ve found a new favorite! The request was for a vegetarian Indian dish because they love richly spiced Indian food! Well… we love the spices of Indian cuisine too, so I was excited to try and make it at home.
I make Butter Chicken once in a while, but I don’t know my way around Indian food real well so I usually don’t make it at home. But I came across this dish in one of my cookbooks and I was intrigued to say the least – it’s basically an Indian stir-fry which sounds like something I could actually handle making!
Paneer cheese is and Indian cheese that you can fry or grill without it melting, and it’s amazing! When you sauté it, it tastes a bit like a mozzarella stick but it doesn’t melt into a puddle like most cheeses. The possibilities are going to be truly endless! When you get to the picture of the fried panner with those browned cheese edges, I think you’ll catch some of my excitement!
For the onion, start by cutting off both ends and peeling away the tough outer layer. Cut the onion in half from the top to the bottom and lay each half flat side down on the cutting board. Next, cut across the rounded top to create 1/4″ thick half moon slices.
Remove the core and seeds from the bell peppers and slice them in half. Slice each half into 1/4″ strips and then cut the strips in half crosswise.
For the zucchini, I cut it into ‘baton’ like sticks about 1/2″ x 1/4″ x 3″ but you could also slice it into quarters and then crosswise into 1/2″ thick triangles, whatever is the fastest and easiest for you. The only real criteria when stir-frying is to keep the veggies the same basic thickness so they cook evenly.
When stir-frying, it’s best to prepare all your ingredients before starting. Once you start cooking over high heat you don’t want to be measuring spices!
Since we don’t live anywhere near a place to buy paneer cheese, I went a little crazy and made my own! I love making fresh ricotta and other simple cheeses because the freshness of flavor is unparalleled! I was a little nervous about making paneer, but it turned out to be the easiest cheese I’ve ever made! I have a tutorial with pictures and tips for cheese making coming your way soon if you’re like me and can’t buy exotic ingredients at the store. Another option if you don’t have paneer available is to substitute chicken.
I sliced my round of paneer up into rectangles but it really doesn’t matter as long as it’s bite sized.
The paneer gets a quick sauté first before the rest of the stir-fry to create those crispy browned edges.
I’ve put the link in for the original recipe, but just know that I’ve taken great liberties with their recipe to simplify it enough for a weekday kind of meal! I love Indian food, but I do find it complicated to make with all the different steps, (maybe it’s just because it’s unfamiliar to me).
If you don’t cook with Indian spices, you’ll want to head to your local health food store for the best chance of finding everything! The odd one is definitely the fenugreek leaves, but you can usually find them in the bulk spice section, or you can order them online.
- 1 large red onion
- 2 red bell peppers, weighing 1 pound
- 1 zucchini, weighing 12 ounces
- 1 pound paneer cheese
- ¼ cup avocado oil or olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons minced ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon minced fresh red chile
- 2 Teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 Teaspoon garam masala
- 1 Teaspoon fenugreek leaves
- 1 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped into ½" pieces
- Sea salt to taste
- Garnish with chopped cilantro
- Start by cutting off both ends of the onion and peeling away the tough outer layer. Cut the onion in half from the top to the bottom. Lay the onion halves flat side down on the cutting board, and cut across the rounded top to create ¼" half moon slices.
- Remove the cores from the bell peppers and cut them in half. Next slice the halves into ¼" strips and then cut the strips in half to create smaller pieces, set the sliced peppers aside with the onions.
- Cut both ends off the zucchini, and cut it lengthwise into about 12 strips. Next cut across the strips in 3" lengths - this creates a stick/baton type of shape that's ½" x ¼" x 3". Feel free to cut up the zucchini however is easiest, just keep the size similar to the rest of the stir-fry ingredients. Set the zucchini aside with the rest of the veggies.
- Cut the paneer lengthwise into strips, and then cut across the strips to create rectangles. For the paneer, cut it up however it makes sense depending on the shape and size you buy/make it in. The main idea is to keep it bite sized.
- Prepare the ginger, garlic, and red chile and set them aside together in a small bowl.
- Measure out the coriander, garam masala, and fenugreek leaves, and set the mixture aside.
- Once all the ingredients are prepped, heat a very large skillet (15") over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Pour 2 Tablespoons of the avocado/olive oil into the preheated pan and add the paneer. Sauté the paneer for a couple of minutes each side, cooking only to achieve a crispy browned exterior. Remove the paneer from the pan and set it aside until the end of the cooking time.
- Return the skillet to the medium high heat and pour the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil into the skillet. Add the ginger, garlic, chile mixture, and sauté for about 30 seconds until it's fragrant but not browned. Add the spices and sauté another 30 seconds.
- Next turn the heat to high and add all the prepared veggies. Sauté until the veggies are crisp-tender with lightly browned edges, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the fried paneer, chopped fresh tomatoes, and season to taste with sea salt.
- Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, and serve immediately.
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