Thursday, September 16, 2010

Indian Feast: Tikka Masala, Saag Paneer, Naan bread, and Kheer

This past weekend I got to spend some much needed time with the family.  I had my little scare going on which really made me aware of how precious each day is.  Fortunately, it turned out to be nothing but I'm glad that I had the reminder to be thankful for every day.

Part of the weekend included getting in the kitchen with Chuck.  He has discovered the joys of cooking and we have been having a lot of fun in the kitchen.  It's so nice to hear him say (even after a long day at work), "I want to help with dinner tonight."  I love it!

The menu for our Indian dinner was tikka masala over rice pilaf, saag paneer, hot naan bread, and a delicious kheer for dessert.  We basically made our favorite things from our favorite Indian restaurant.

I have a recipe from America's Test Kitchen for Tikka Masala that is listed as one of their "Best-Ever Recipes."  They weren't kidding! Oh, it's so good.  Charlie had two servings!
And the rice pilaf turned out perfect.  So much flavor.
You have got to try this tikka masala.  The print ready version of recipe is here.

The rice pilaf may seem like a lot of work for something you're just going to cover up but it's worth the little extra effort.  And it's not difficult at all.  The print ready version of recipe is here.

Chuck worked on the tikka masala while I worked on the saag paneer which is a spinach dish full of spice and bits of paneer cheese.  The cheese really does not have a suitable substitute.  I called around and found some at a local Whole Foods.  You could probably find a recipe for the paneer online.
It may not look very tasty but trust me, it is. Yum! The saag paneer print ready version recipe is here.

The naan bread was the easiest thing to make: just go to your local grocery store, buy some, heat.  I heated mine over an oven flame on the stove and spread the top with a little melted butter.  We just passed it around and tore off pieces.  I think this was Charlie's favorite.

Now my favorite part: kheer.  I've never had a version that wasn't a little runny so don't be put off by the picture.  It's a refreshing dessert that tastes so good it will curl your toes.

Chuck and I made this the night before so we could save on prep work the night of the dinner. 

The recipe calls for basmati rice.  I usually use Texmati brand but I had read that the very best was an aged basmati from India.  It had longer grains and better flavor.  It wasn't difficult to find the Indian basmati.  They had it at my local HEB grocery store with the other rices.
There really is a big difference. This is my first time to ever buy a bag of rice so large that it required handles.

Another ingredient in the kheer that my favorite Indian restaurant uses is called green cardamom pods. I did not think I would be able to find any but I saw that Whole Foods sold it in bulk so I could buy exactly how much I wanted.  The smell of these little pods is intoxicating.  Hard to describe but it's floral.  You'll just have to smell them.
Inside the pods are little black seeds.  I like to smash the pods with the side of a knife and add them to the kheer.  At the end of cooking I scrape out the seeds into the kheer and remove the green pods.  But do it however you prefer.  Just try it.  I served mine in wine glasses for a little dazzle.
The green is a chopped pistachio and the black is a little cardamom seed.  You get a burst of floral flavor when you bit into one.
Kheer print ready version of recipe is here.

After dinner we sat around grinning like Cheshire cats.  One of the best dinners we've ever made.

And now that I have had my little scare resolved, life can get back to normal (whatever normal is).

Chuck and I were planning on going for a long walk this evening and I expect we'll go for a few more hikes at a park this weekend.  I'm easing back into running.  I did talk to the doctor about my fingers and hips hurting.  He seemed more concerned about the fingers but we're taking it all one step at a time.  First I have to give a blood sample next week then discuss everything else.

Speaking of walking, I saw this morning that Wynona Judd has lost 60 pounds just by walking.  Her husband was arrested for sexual battery of a child and their marriage dissolved after that.  She was (understandably) upset and went for walks in the woods.  Ha, that's exactly what I like to do when I'm upset!  She must have taken quite a few of those walks because now she has lost a lot of weight.  She said she discovered that she enjoyed walking.  Good for her!  It's always good to see people succeed, especially after something as traumatic as a divorce from a pervert.

I don't have 60 pounds to lose but I sure wouldn't mind dropping about 40 or 50.  And so I'll be walking.  Hopefully I'll be running again soon!  One thing is for sure: I'll be enjoying life and spending time with my sweet hubby in the kitchen.  Wish y'all could join me. :)


  1. I love chicken tikka masala! I'll have to check out your recipe - I love any and all America's Test Kitchen recipes.

    I have a naan recipe you might like when everything else isn't from scratch:

    Glad your health scare was just a scare!


  2. Ahhhh Indian Food. I love it so much, I could forgo Chinese forever if I could have Indian instead. I'm blessed because when I lived overseas as a young woman, I had a Sri Lankan friend and an Indian friend who both taught me how to cook their food. My only issue where I live now is that the authentic spices are hard to find. Luckily my daughter is able to procure them in DC and usually brings me some when she comes home to visit!

  3. I wish I could join you, too! Cooking with y'all sounds like fun and I love that the kids are actually eating what you are making!

  4. Be right there!
    Razzle -dazzle all over the place!

  5. Wow! what an impressive dinner! (we use that "grinning like Cheshire cats" too- lol)

    Sorry about your health scare! Glad everything worked out! Janet


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