One of the most frequent questions I get asked is What do you miss most about the states?
If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have related a long list of foods I missed. Brugger's Bagels, Dunkin Donuts' bagels, toaster pastries, and the like. Oh, and raspberries. Very important.
As time goes by, I find myself not missing so many things, but at the same time missing more important ones. I guess it all boils down to three important factors:
1. Family and friends. Although years have passed, there are people who are important and it's pretty much been clear all along who's with me on this long haul.
3. Safety. Not having to lock your doors, not living watchfully, being able to walk around at night, the basic freedom of transit without fear.
3. Food. Yes. Food. Especially Indian food. We have one or two Indian restaurants here that are pretty overpriced and not amazing. I've been once, and had a great time making fun of the Indian hiphop music videos that were playing on the LCD screens in this fancy place. When I go to Indian restaurants in the States I love the buffets, the samosas, the vegetable dishes, the rice pudding and Galub Jamun (milk balls) for dessert. But if I'm ordering off the menu I'll most likely get the palak paneer, a spinach puree dish with paneer cheese. It's amazing, especially accompanied by naan bread. This recipe comes pretty darn close.
On a side note, sometimes it's good that you can't get all the food that you would be able to in the States. It makes you a creative person, you learn how to make your own veggie stock, ricotta cheese, pie crusts, bagels, palak paneer and whatnot.
Spinach and tofu paneer
Adapted from Deborah Madison's This Can't be Tofu via Epicurious
1 carton firm tofu
1 large bunch spinach, stems discarded
1 ½ canned jalapeño chiles, seeded, washed and roughly chopped
1-inch knob ginger, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped or pressed
1 cup diced onion
2 TBSP vegetable oil (you may substitute butter or ghee)
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
½ cup whole milk (or half-and-half)
⅓ cup plain yogurt
Dice the tofu into pieces about the size of a sugar cube. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil, add 1 tsp salt and lower the heat. Add the tofu, turn off the heat and leave for 4-5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Steam the spinach until wilted, then remove to a cutting board and chop. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess water (or be lazy like me, don't squeeze out the water and reduce the water to about ¾ cup in the next step).
Put the jalapeños, ginger, garlic and onion in your food processor and blend until finely chopped. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet, add the onion mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
Add 1 tsp salt, cumin, nutmeg, pepper flakes, and 1 cup water (see above note). Simmer for 5 minutes, then return the mixture to the food processor along with the spinach. Puree.
Return the mixture to the skillet, add the milk and tofu; simmer for 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the yogurt. Enjoy with basmati rice and a tall glass of water.