Cooking for one instead of two means there are less nights it seems worth spending a lot of time to do something overly complicated. It also means, I east whatever I like, without worry if Chip will like it, even if its the same thing night after night. One of my dinner staples is Palak Paneer. Delicious spicy spinach and soft cheese. Trader Joe's has a great boxed version that is super easy, and even easier when you make it with their frozen rice. Five minutes in the microwave and you're ready to eat. But, could it really be that hard to make myself? And surely it'd be healthier.
I've looked several times for paneer cheese in various grocery stores & markets to use in various Indian inspired dishes, but I've never found it. Earlier this week, I finally looked up how to make paneer. No wonder I've never found it in the store! It's so easy to make, why bother selling it pre-made! It's basically cooked, curdled milk, strained of all whey. Today, I picked up all the ingredients for the palak paneer, and made the paneer.
- 8 cups (1 half gallon) whole milk
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup warm water
- cheesecloth for straining
Mix lemon juice and warm water & set aside
Bring 8 cup (1 half gallon) milk just barely to a boil. Stir in water and lemon juice and stir until the milk fat separates into large curds and the whey is clear and separate from the curds. My whey looked yellowish, but some recipes said it would look greenish.
Remove from heat & let cool. Use the cheesecloth to strain over a large bowl. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Rinse the pressed curds (still in the cheesecloth) under running water and press again. Apparently, this should take away the sharpness & acidity of the lemon juice. Form the cheese in a disc re-wrap in the cheesecloth. Set heavy pan or weight on top of the disc for about 2 hours to squeeze out all the excess liquid.
And done! See how easy? It took a while, but it was mostly waiting for the excess liquid to be squeezed out.
So, what about the whey left behind? I have a large mason jar of whey left over from cheese making process. A few suggestions I found online: use it as a milk substitute in biscuits or bread; use it instead of water in cooking rice; make ricotta cheese. Luckily it will keep for a few days so I have a little time to decide.
Here's the final outcome, a beautiful disc of paneer. Tomorrow I'll try using it in palak paneer. Hopefully that will be my dinner & reward at the end of the day!