Lavash Spanakopita (Palak Paneer Purses)

Lavash Spanakopita (Palak Paneer Purses) Recipe

This is an Indian take on the classic Greek fare  with a healthy twist. I prepared the savory "pastry" with spinach-flavored lavash bread and used palak paneer as the filling.

Many Indian dishes are served family-style and this is a great way to turn palak paneer into individual servings. We had many guests over the weekend and I served these fusion-style appetizers with raita sauce on the side.  

Quick note: I'm going to be in Houston this weekend for my first interview with Cleverley Stone on her show on CBS Sports & Entertainment Radio this Saturday, August 31st at 10 am. Then I will be heading to Barnes & Noble at 2 pm for a cooking demo, followed by a book signing. If you live in Houston or in the area, stop by and sample some of the food from my second cookbook, Banh Mi.

Barnes & Noble Fairway Market Place, 5656 Fairmont Parkway, Pasadena, Texas  at 2pm on Saturday, August 31st, 2013.  (No need for the ZIP code, since people won’t be mailing anything to you there.)

Ingredients

Yields: 10 servings

2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste (click on the link for the recipe)
1 onion
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ pounds fresh spinach leaves
10 ounces paneer (Indian cheese), cubed
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup heavy cream
2 whole dried red chiles (stemmed)
1 Serrano green chile pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 package California Lavash spinach bread


Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

For the paneer: Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a pan and fry the cubes of paneer until they are golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel, leaving as much oil as possible in the pan. Set the paneer aside. 

For the masala sauce: In the same pan, fry the onion in the oil, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Add garam masala and turmeric powder. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then add the yogurt. Transfer to a mini-blender and blend until the sauce is smooth. Add the heavy cream. Set aside.

For the Spinach:

Wash the spinach thoroughly in a large bowl of water. Drain, then remove all the excess water using a salad spinner. Roughly chop all the spinach leaves.

In a large pan or wok, add  more oil. When it's hot, add the ginger garlic paste. Cook for about 1 minute. Keep the temperature at a high heat. Add 1/3 of the amount of spinach to the pan and constantly lift the spinach leaves using 2 slotted spoons, one each side of the pan. The leaves will start to wilt after 30 seconds or so. Add about ¼ to ½ cup of water, whole long red chiles and Serrano chile, then add the next 1/3 of the spinach and repeat the same procedure for 30 seconds. Season with a little salt (this will prevent the spinach from changing color). Repeat one more time with the rest of the spinach, then transfer all the content of the pan onto a large platter. Discard the excess spinach liquid as you don't want the phyllo cups to turn soggy.

Making palak paneer:

Return the spinach bak to the pan for further cooking. Add the masala sauce to the spinach. Cook for 1-2 minutes and add the paneer at the end. Check seasoning and add more salt (if necessary) and pepper. Stir well. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove and discard the chile. Set aside.

Assembly:

Cut the sheets of lavash bread into 5-inch squares. 

Place about 1 to 2 tablespoons of palak paneer into the center of each squares. Wrap them, forming little envelopes. Secure with some twine. Bake for about 5 minutes until the bread is slightly golden and hardens a bit. Remove from the oven and let cool until firm.

When the packets are cooked, remove the tray from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Cut and discard the twine.

Serve with raita on the side.

Bon appétit!


Tips

You can make your own paneer or buy it at your local Indian market.

I used California lavash bread; it's also known as lahvash or cracker bread. It's a huge time saver for making quick, healthy and easy meals. It's available at Raley's and Whole Food stores throughout Northern California. 

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on August 26, 2013.


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