Beet Green Paneer
Chef Zach Meloy of Better Half
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons + 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 ounces paneer, (Indian cheese, either store-bought or homemade: recipe follows), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb. beet greens, (or other hearty greens) chopped
2 leeks, dark leaves & root end removed, chopped
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
4 bulbs green garlic, chopped finely
2 large dried chiles, finely chopped, or ground
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
In a large bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons oil. Gently, drop in the cubes of paneer and gently toss, taking care not to break the cubes. Let the cubes marinate while you get the rest of your ingredients together and prepped.
Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the paneer as the pan warms. In a couple of minutes give the pan a toss; each piece of paneer should be browned on one side. Fry another minute or so, and then remove the paneer from the pan onto a plate.
Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to the pan. Add the leeks, ginger, garlic and chile. Sauté the mixture until it's evenly toffee-colored, which should take about 15 minutes. If you feel like the mixture is drying out and burning, add a couple of tablespoons of water.
Add the garam masala, coriander and cumin. If you haven't already, sprinkle a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook, stirring often, until the raw scent of the spices cook out.
Add the beet greens and stir well, incorporating the spiced leek mixture into the beet greens. Add a little salt and 1/2 cup of water, stir, and cook about 5 minutes with the lid off.
For the paneer:
1 gallon, whole milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
Line a large colander with a large double layer of cheesecloth, and set it in your sink.
In a large wide pot, bring the milk to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning the bottom (a nonstick pot works really well for this purpose). This will take a little while so be patient!
Add the lemon juice and turn the heat down to low. Stirring gently, you should almost immediately see the curds (white milk solids) and whey (the greenish liquid) separate. Don't fret, this is perfect!
Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour the contents into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Gently rinse with cool water to get rid of the lemon flavor. At this point, you could squeeze out some of the liquid, and serve with some honey and some nuts, almost like a fresh ricotta!
Grab the ends of the cheesecloth and twist the ball of cheese to squeeze out the excess whey. Tie the cheesecloth to your kitchen faucet and allow the cheese to drain for about 5 minutes.
Twisting the ball to compact the cheese into a block, place it on a plate with the twisted part of the cheesecloth on the side (this will ensure your block of cheese is nice and smooth!) and set another plate on top. Weigh the second plate down with cans of beans or a heavy pot. Move to the refrigerator and let it sit about 20 minutes.
Unwrap your beautiful disc of homemade cheese!