Little cups of paneer delight. You could call these just that!
Before I go on to the recipe - here's a quick look at my backyard. There's a reason I talk about this. Hang in there with me.
So, here's my persimmon tree all green with leaves - just a couple of months ago, this was just sticks! Not a single leaf. And then the miracle of Spring happened. Anyways, its not the persimmon I'm coming to. Just to the left of the persimmon tree is my little fresh mint plant. Can you see it. No?
How about now? That's a much better view.
This plant was growing crazy. Just look at the size of the mint leaves. I normally don't even find this size in my produce market! And it was still full of the wonderful mint smell and a strong mint flavor. All this goodness in my own backyard!
I did not want these to just dry up and be wasted. So, I decided I'll use these - right now. For my next meal!
And it so happened that I was not cooking my next meal. I was going to a party. But, a potluck party and I had to make an appetizer for the party.
So, the light bulb flickered on in my brain. Yes people, I do have a brain and a bulb inside it!
I had a lot of paneer in the fridge and so quickly decided I'll do something with it. First I thought I'll make paneer tikka's stuffed with pudina chutney. And then of course, my deep fried lover darling husband suggested I make paneer pakodas (again stuffed with mint chutney). Those are real good too - but I said NO to deep frying today. Don't act all surprised now.
So, I decided I'll make paneer stuffed veggies and then bake them. Healthy and yet tasty. That settles the issue of what to make.
Let's finally get to the recipe.
Wash the fresh mint leaves and set aside.
In a pan, add 1/2 tsp of oil. Add 1 tsp of urad daal and 1/2 tsp of coriander seeds to the oil. Saute for a few seconds.
Add 1 tsp of chopped ginger and then a couple of green chillies, chopped. Fry for a min.
Now, add the fresh mint leaves and mix well. The heat will cause the leaves to wilt immediately. As soon as the leaves begin to wilt, switch off the stove.
See that? Now, move this to a mixer or blender to blend into a coarse paste.
Add salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp might be good) and grind into a coarse mixture. It's ok to have a few cruncy bites of the urad daal and ginger.Set this aside.
Chop paneer into real small bits.
In a pan, add 1 tsp oil. Throw in the paneer and mix well. This is a pre-step done just to flavor the paneer. Yes. You'll thank me later for this.
Add 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp red chilli powder and salt to taste. Mix well and make sure that all the paneer pieces are coated with the spices. Don't cook this for a long time. Maybe for a couple of mins would do. Just enough to soften the paneer a little bit.
Add chopped cilantro on top of the paneer. Mix well and set aside. We will use this for the stuffing. ( You could just make this as a filling for a paratha wrap. I had some leftovers and had exactly that for lunch...oooh..so good!)
Now, on to the veggies.
I used tomatoes, some yellow bell peppers and zucchini for the base. Chop the tomatoes and bell pepper into two slicing right at the middle so that you have two equal parts. Remove all the seeds from the peppers and also the tomatoes.
Look at all the seeds on the piece at the left. Just scoop it all out and you'll have the one at the right.
Side Note: If you have some space in your backyard or a planter pot, just add some soil, throw in the seeds that you just scooped out and then add some more soil on top of it. Water that pot for a few days and you'll see your own tomato plant starting to grow. Really. Try it sometime! This people is going green - reduce waste, reuse waste and grow your own tomatoes!
Just let all the scooped out tomatoes sit cut side down on a board for a few mins while you cut the other veggies. This will help drain any extra water in the tomatoes.
Now, pick up the pieces and get that bowl of mint paste you prepared a few minutes ago. Apply a little of the paste inside each of the open sockets of the tomatoes. When you actually bake, this flavor spreads around and mixes with the paneer and it all tastes oh so heavenly!
Good little tomatoes - all sitting quiet without any complaints.
Repeat the same process with the zucchini. Just cut the zucchini into thick rounds. Using a thin filet knife, just scoop out a little of the center. Take enough care to make sure you don't poke a hole all the way to the bottom. You want the bottom completely covered. Just make a pocket that's good enough to hold the stuffing.
Thinking it could be fancy, I just peeled off little stripes on the zucchini skin. If you know more fancy stuff to do with the zucchinis, be my guest. Somehow, I thought this will also help the center cook more - not true. But, hey I'm no Alton Brown. I can't know everything.
Here are my tomatoes all stuffed and ready to go.
And my yellow bell peppers. The peppers I found in the store were huge - so they make really big appetizers. That's why I just stopped with a couple of them.
I squeezed them all into one baking dish. Note to all - please add parchment paper before you arrange them on the baking dish - makes for a much easier clean up process later.
Bake them in a preheated oven at 375F for about 20 mins or until the veggies start shrinking and the paneer looks roasted.
Here they are out of the oven.
The zucchinis were perfectly done. The bell peppers could have used a little more time in the oven. So, if you try this, maybe place them on a separate sheet and leave them in the oven for some more time.
The tomatoes were perfectly done in 20 mins and were very juicy too. The flavor of the mint and the paneer and the tomatoes work magic in your mouth.
And that was just the appetizers. I won't even tell you guys how much we ate for the main entrees! And dessert. Actually, we also had a birthday cake that was cut after the appetizer and before dinner. And we ate it all - so that does not even count as dessert. We of course had Falooda Mango Kulfi for dessert. Since the party got way past midnight - that was considered food for the next day. LOL!
Good friends and good food and good fun. Life is good.
Just a couple of more obsession shots for you all.
Enjoy. Peace Out!