Birthdays in our home are more like birthweeks.
It was certainly the case this year for Ryan's annual celebration. He spent a good five days eating some of his favorite foods, from burgers to tacos. Some meals were eaten in restaurants; others were enjoyed at home.
I wrapped up Ryan's birthday week cooking an Indian buffet. Typically, I leave this cuisine—which happens to be one of his favorites—up to our favorite Indian restaurants in Jackson Heights, Queens, and the East Village. This time, I gave it a go. I spent all day making cucumber-scallion raita, dal, bandh gobhi ki sabzi (buttered cabbage), and finally, sag and paneer. The latter is what gave me inspiration in the first place.
Paneer, a fresh Asian cheese, is not widely available in supermarkets. It is, however, easy to make. So that's what I did—and the Indian buffet was born.
Paneer (Courtesy of Bal Arneson via The Cooking Channel)
4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup vinegar
1. Bring the milk to a boil in a large pot. Add the vinegar and stir until the mixture separates into solids and liquids. Drain the mixture through a cheesecloth set in a large mesh sieve over a bowl. Wrap the ends of the cheesecloth around the curd and put a heavy weight on it such as a cookie jar (or, in my case, a popcorn container). Place the mixture in the refrigerator.
2. Let the liquid completely drain for at least one hour or overnight for a firmer cheese. (If you're going to pan-fry it, I would suggest overnight.)
Don't be afraid to give this one a shot. And if you're not a fan of Indian food, don't fret—this cheese would be just at home on a fresh salad (be sure to sprinkle it generously with salt to bring out the flavor).
Now just say cheese!