Meatless Monday: Green Beans with Paneer in Fresh Tomato Sauce
Indian food is known for being pretty vegetarian-friendly (though it's friendly to meat-lovers too, with dishes like goat curry and chicken tikka masala). There are always warmly spiced vegetable curries, lentil soups and plenty of meat-free appetizers on the menu at an Indian restaurant. Whenever I order Indian food (which is as much as possible), I order something with paneer, a firm Indian cheese. Paneer is similar in texture to firm tofu or conventional (not fresh) mozzarella, but very mildly-flavored; it's slightly nutty. It takes on the flavors of the spices in the dish its being used in, and it doesn't really melt so stays firm in the dish. Basically, it's great.
Here's the thing about Indian food -- there's a common misconception that it's something to be eaten in restaurants, only. Not true at all. It's pretty easy to make at home, and to start, you'll only need a few basic spices.
Bal Arneson's Green Beans With Paneer in Tomato Sauce is one of the simplest, meat-free recipes out there, Indian or otherwise. The only slightly exotic spices involved are coriander, mustard seeds and cumin, and those should all be available in a large supermarket. As for the paneer, you can find that in an Asian or Indian grocery store, or regular supermarket with a robust international section. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you can make your own.
Put the 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil in a large skillet, and add the coriander, garlic, mustard seeds, and cumin and cook for about 15 seconds. Add the tomatoes and season with salt, and pepper, stirring well. Add the green beans and cook until the beans are crisp-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
In another pan, add oil and place over medium heat. Add the cubed paneer and fry until golden on all sides, turning frequently. Gently stir into the finished beans and serve immediately.
Serve the beans with basmati rice (brown or white) or some naan bread, which you can buy at the store, or again, if you're feeling ambitious, you can make it yourself.
Meatless Monday is a global campaign that started in 2003. The goal was, and still is, to reduce meat consumption by 15%, which has proven health benefits to humans and to the planet. This 15% reduction can be easily achieved by giving up meat once a week, and thus Meatless Monday was born. The grassroots movement has since exploded though and hundreds of chefs, celebrities, food producers, restaurants, even entire cities, colleges and countries are on board. Each week, in addition to a meat-free recipe, we'll highlight a Meatless Monday Mover and Shaker. This week, Jessica Simpspon.
OK! Magazine reports that Jessica Simpson is going Meatless Monday to slim down before her wedding. Some of her favorite meatless foods include seitan, avocados and almond milk.