creamy paneer tangy tomatoes and a gorgeously easy dinner

Creamy Paneer, Tangy Tomatoes and a Gorgeously Easy Dinner

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“If you’re going to eat dairy, you should go all in,” said Anita Jaisinghani, the chef and owner of Pondicheri in Houston.

She was talking about a recipe for paneer korma from her new cookbook, “Masala: Recipes From India, the Land of Spices.” To make the dish, thick slices of the cheese are roasted in yogurt and ghee until thoroughly bronzed, then added to a sauce of heavy cream and ground almonds that is scented with rose water and cardamom. It’s a combination that walks the line between abundance and overkill, but — thanks to the sharpness of the yogurt and ginger paste — never crosses it.

Ms. Jaisinghani has long been obsessed with paneer. A microbiologist turned chef who was born and raised in Gujarat, a state in western India, she makes eight-gallon wheels of the mild fresh cheese every few days at the restaurant. Then she uses it everywhere — simmered into curries, nestled into salads like soft croutons, crumbled over vegetables as a creamy finish.

Replacing the usual meat or vegetables in a traditional korma was her way of celebrating the cheese’s milkiness.

“It’s dairy with dairy with dairy with dairy,” she said. “I love it, but it’s not necessarily for everyone.”

Simmering those same yogurt-roasted paneer slices in a spicy tomato curry, however, is a dish any cheese lover can get behind.

The key to making this dish, which she makes at home, Ms. Jaisinghani said, is to bring out the tanginess of the tomatoes, which balances the richness of the cheese.

“Paneer needs an acid; otherwise, it’s super bland,” she said.

A zippy mix of grated ginger and garlic and ground cayenne accomplishes this, while cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric add depth.

Although many paneer recipes call for frying the cheese, Ms. Jaisinghani prefers roasting it, which gives it a deeper, more complex caramelized flavor.

It’s also easier: You can roast the cheese in the oven as the tomatoes simmer away on the stovetop.

This initial roasting is especially important, she said, when using store-bought paneer, which doesn’t have that same delicate, milky character as homemade cheese.

Then, after adding the roasted paneer to the simmering sauce, it’s essential to wait at least 10 minutes before serving.

“If you let the paneer sit in the hot curry to steam, it plumps up and gets pillowy,” she said, “and that’s what I love about it best.”

Recipe: Butter-Roasted Paneer With Tomato Curry