Celebrating What Is, Including Lots of Kale, and Saag Panir

Celebrating what is.

Each morning we get to wake up and decide what we cook up to place on our plate of life. I love and appreciate all the seasons, but summer, oh summer, is so easy to celebrate.

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I did a double take walking through the garden – the ring of little bees caught my eye! Surprising to me, they are adult “long horned bees” that typically rest in flowers overnight. Celebrate what is!

Even amidst some hardships this season: super-strained knees, and a foot bent out of shape for a few weeks  – the natural world has been such a gift, gracing my days with beauty and wonder.

This summer, I have the real pleasure of being asked to create food demos for CSA members at Happy Heart Farm in Fort Collins, Colorado at their monthly A Taste of Happy Heart Farm event during a regular Tuesday distribution night. In exchange, I receive a half share of their produce offerings throughout the growing season. This month Bailey asked me to feature kale and chard – as it is mighty plentiful  and offered nearly every week of the harvesting year.

What in the h%#l do we do with all this kale??

Well….

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the mounded sinks of greens

I put together some recipes to help folks out.

1. Kale chips – so very, very tasty; plus a lovely little recipe for 2. kale and white bean stuffed baked tomatoes (I’ll share that one soon too – it’ll be fun to photograph when my Purple Cherokee tomatoes finally ripen up.) Of course kale smoothies are amazing as well, see my Glorious Green Smoothie for a simple, delicious recipe.

And I chose 3. Saag Panir for my featured event at the tasting.

If you aren’t familiar, this traditional Indian dish includes spicy cooked greens(saag) and fresh cheese(panir). The panir is rennetless,light and mild, so very easy to prepare at home. In a matter of an hour or two in your home kitchen, you will say delightfully, “I made cheese today!” Here it is – already cubed and ready to pop into the spicy saag greens. Check the “fresh cheese” link for step by step photos, and the “I made cheese today!” link for another variation.

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freshly cut panir

I was lucky enough to make this batch of cheese with raw, biodynamic milk from Light Root Farm of Boulder, Colorado. Happy Heart Farm CSA members can also opt in for milk shares from Light Root Farms (as well as mushroom shares from Hazel Dell Mushrooms, fruit shares from Ela Family Farms, egg shares from Morning Fresh Dairy, tofu shares from Mama’s Tofu Collective AND locally grown, amazingly organic strawberries from Garden Sweet.)

And so, without further ado 🙂 but with much to celebrate setting a big dish of this on the table, here is the recipe.

Saag (or Saak, depending on where you are from) Panir – Curried Greens and Homemade Cheese 

Serves 4 or thereabouts. Regional variations abound in preparation styles, including heavy on the cream, or pureeing the cooked greens. I offer here a recipe from the south – with the greens seasoned more lightly with spicy flavored oil. And a dairy free option made with tofu.

Panir:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk – recipe works great with goat or cow’s milk
  • 1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
  • salt to taste (about 1 tsp.)
  • minced chives, roast garlic or cumin seeds if you like (about 1 tbsp.)

Bring milk to boil in large pan. Reduce heat to low and, while gently stirring, add the lemon juice. When the milk separates into cheese curds and yellowish whey, (this should be immediately) remove pan from the heat. Line a strainer with triple thickness of cheesecloth 22 to 24 inches square.

Slowly pour the curds and whey into the strainer, with a pot below it to catch the whey. Lightly salt and season the panir with additional herbs if desired, then gather the corners and tie into tight bundle. Squeeze out excess moisture. Neatly fold cheesecloth over the cheese to make a flat square parcel, balance heavy weight on top. Drain and press panir until it is firm, this will take 30 minutes and up to two hours. Use as desired or wrap tightly and refrigerate up to 5 days. For this recipe: cut panir into cubes or crumble, placing cheese into a bowl. Toss with 1 tbsp. turmeric or curry powder.

For greens:

  • 2 1/2 lb. kale, spinach, or other favorite greens – washed, patted dry, picked over, de-stemmed
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or red curry paste, to taste (I typically use quite a bit more!)
  • salt to taste
  • toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • edible flowers are also a beautiful touch, cilantro or flat parsley leaves too

Roll greens into tight log on cutting board, and cut into thin julienne strips. Heat oil in deep pan, add mustard seeds, and when they begin popping, add spinach, red pepper flakes or curry paste, stir and cover. In a minute or two, check the greens –if they are wilted and bright green, remove from heat. If using panir, add as much as you like into greens and serve, seasoning to taste with extra salt and chilies if desired, sprinkling sesame seeds on top.

If using tofu: 

  • 1 lb. extra firm tofu, pressed and patted dry, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp. tumeric
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 -2 tbsp. olive oil

In large nonstick pan, heat oil. In bowl, toss tofu cubes with tumeric and salt. Fry tofu in oil until lightly browned. Stir into wilted greens, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve. Great also served chilled as a salad.

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sweetness of the garden, nasturtiums and flat leaf parsley

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celebrating … at A Taste of Happy Heart Farm

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sampling…and celebrating

As always, with blessings and love and happy plates to all.

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