It's the dead of winter in New York, and right now I crave nothing more than a warm and cozy dish that will keep me coming back. One of my main moves is to cook a delicious and flavor-packed meal starter that's delicious on its own with rice or quinoa, or can serve as a poaching medium for proteins or vegetables-like my miso-butternut soup, which doubles as a sauce for fish. This spiced tomato sauce with bits of creamy paneer is another go-to favorite. It's basically a paneer bhurji with tomato gravy, which is a hearty vegetarian dish that's popular in India.
You'll start by searing the paneer until golden brown on both sides, then crumbling it into bite-sized chunks. Add more oil to the same pot and cook some aromatics-onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeño-until softened and translucent. Then you'll add a spice medley of cumin, mustard, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne, and sauté until fragrant and toasted. Finally, you'll stir in the tomatoes and bring the pot to a gentle simmer.
At that point, stir in the crumbled paneer and let it cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. Some of the liquid will evaporate and the paneer will break down further, making this sauce even creamier. But the consistency is very customizable, and you can add some water to thin it out if you'd prefer it that way.
I use this paneer base to stuff colorful bell peppers, which bake in the oven until their tops are golden brown and the peppers have softened. These stuffed peppers work well as either a main dish or side, and you can serve them with a fresh, leafy green salad to complete the meal.
But this paneer sauce can do more tricks than just that. I usually crave something salty and spicy as a snack, and I figured this sauce would be perfect in a sandwich with a little cheese and red onions for a fresh bite-and I was right. I spread a thick layer of the paneer sauce on a slice of bread, topped it with the onions and cheese-I've used mozzarella, but a sharp and creamy cheddar only makes it better. I then closed up the sandwich with another bread slice, and pan-fried both sides in a little bit of butter. It hit all the right notes for my middle-of-winter cravings.
But if stuffed peppers and crispy sandwiches are not your vibe, you can serve this paneer sauce over rice or with flatbread, in tacos or a quesadilla to change things up. Any way you use it, this recipe is a fast and easy path to the cozy meal you need right now.