Indian-style Spinach Phyllo Cups
After learning how to make so many Indian dishes from my husband's paternal grandmother, I noticed that most meals were served family-style with chapati bread, naan, or basmati rice. Our guests love Indian cuisine, so I started to include a few of my favorite dishes, made into bit-sized portions.
I love serving finger food. It allows your guests to easily mix and mingle right before the more formal sit-down part of the meal. Palak paneer phyllo cups are one of the many appetizers I've developed over the years.
These spinach appetizers require 4 steps: forming the phyllo cups, pan-frying the cubes of paneer cheese, making the Indian spinach and cheese filling and assembling at the last minute when the guests are about to arrive. I usually do the prep way in advance so I can have a stress-free party and start the evening in a good and calm spirit.
Yields: 36 appetizers2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste (click on the link for the recipe)
1 onion, chopped
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
18 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
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're 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 it 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 the large pan or a 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 toss the spinach leaves using 2 slotted spoons. 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 contents 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 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 chiles. Set aside.
Working with phyllo dough: Using a silicone brush, lightly grease the bottom of each muffin cavity for easy clean up.
Brush a sheet of phyllo dough with a thin layer of melted butter using a silicone brush. Using scissors, cut the sheet into 36 small squares. Stack the phyllo squares and line each muffin cup with the group of squares. Repeat until all the phyllo sheets are used.
Bake the muffin cups for 20-25 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and let stand at least 10 minutes.
Fill with the spinach mixture and serve warm or at room temperature.
When working with phyllo dough, I use a spray bottle filled with water to maintain the level of moisture and I cover the dough with a dampened cheese cloth. But most important, the key to not tearing phyllo dough is to work fast with no interruptions!
For a healthier version, you could replace the butter with olive oil or (butter-flavored vegetable spray) and use an egg white to seal the bottom of the phyllo cups.
You can make your own paneer or buy it at your local Indian market.
I use a non-stick mini muffin pan for easy unmolding.Published By: on October 21, 2013.