Another hot weekend in New York and there is barbeque in the air. Grilled meats and vegetables accompanied by crunchy and hydrating salads provide for the perfect summer evening meals. This weekend, rather than cooking some dishes on the grill and some on the stove, I reserved all the action for one area: The Barbeque.
The barbeque is an interesting place to cross boundaries with cuisines and they all come together symphonically with their smoky and heady aroma. We threw down barbeque ‘lifers’ – burgers, Lebanese skewered chicken ‘shish taouk’ that were thread with a sequence of bell peppers and onions and marinated chunks of spicy and creamy Paneer slabs.
Like halloumi, paneer makes for a perfect grilling ingredient. It yields its softer side in the presence of heat but only very slightly. Distinct from most other cheese, paneer does not melt and this is why it can hold its own amongst more sturdy barbeque items like steak, chicken and firm fish. It also changes up the otherwise ‘fleshy’ textures that are commonly experienced with barbeques with its mildly sweet and tart flavor and close-knit texture.
Whilst I am a big fan of homemade paneer as it’s texture is similar to that of feta, I like to use the store bought version for grilling. Packaged paneer is a lot firmer and you don’t have to worry about it crumbling on the grill. It’s light flavor makes it a great ingredient to take on other flavors, however, the marinade, should not be too loose or it will not stick to the paneer. I like to use thick yoghurt or sour cream and at times a touch of flour so that the pieces remain coated with the marinade when they are on the grill.
For today’s barbeque paneer, I have some wonderful market basil which works like a charm in the presence of dairy. Cubes of paneer that have been bathed in a marinade of creamy and peppery basil and grilled with speckles of charring add the brightest of flavor to any barbeque.
- 1 packet of Paneer (available at your local ethnic store), cut into ¼ “rectangles
- 1 cup of fresh basil
- 1 green chili, deseeded (optional)
- 1 cup of sour cream
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- Salt and pepper
1) Heat the barbeque or if cooking in the broiler, set the oven to ‘high’
2) Blend all the marinade ingredients except for the paneer until nice and smooth
3) Coat the paneer pieces in the marinate and set aside for 10 minutes
4) Once grill/ broiler are hot, grease the surface area where the paneer will be cooked and lay the pieces down until they begin to bubble at the surface and turn brown in some areas
5) Remove from heat and serve immediately
* The paneer must be eaten immediately as it begins to seize and dry up as it cools down
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Saira Malhotra is a classically trained French chef and graduate from the French Culinary Institute. A British born Punjabi, Saira has grown up around food which started from her family pizza business in a small suburb of London. Having studied in France and Italy and living in the Big Apple for the past 12 years, Saira has brought her European, Asian and American influences together via the palate and communicated through her food blog ‘Passport Pantry’.