Every year for Easter, my mother-in-law makes buttery, soft, pillowy yeast rolls in a cross-shaped pan. These rolls are possibly the reason I married her son. Well, the rolls were a big part of it, but I was easily seduced by the noise and energy of the Winslows. They are larger than life, funny, rough, complex, generous–and there are a lot of them. Thomas is the youngest of five, spoiled and sweet as only a youngest child can be, and completely impossible to embarrass or rile. The upside is that we sleep on the highest thread count sheets, but the downside is that when we first got together, he expected me to jump into the melee and noise with both feet . . . and hold my own. For our first Thanksgiving together, we drove out to his family’s hunting ranch in West Texas. Twenty-one people and one bathroom. With no lock. Much teasing ensued. My daily toilette that included both a blow dryer and a straightening iron. My desperate search for a quiet place to hole up and read Jane Eyre. My french press coffee maker. Thomas’s brothers were merciless, but finally, by some twisted logic, it began to feel warm and fun and enveloping. It might have been the laughs and the giant bear hugs after I put my hands on my hips and said, “You know, you just aren’t going to make me cry.” Or it might have been the tray of hot, soft, yeasty rolls, comforting as a physical embrace, that were served at every holiday meal. There is laughter and fighting and food, and there is someone who knows exactly what everyone needs, dishing out love and comfort in giant helpings with plenty to go around for everyone.
This is one of my favorite dishes for Easter–comforting and slightly exotic at once. Delicious with grilled or roasted lamb or with an assortment of other vegetarian dishes.
Saag Paneer with Fresh Spinach
2 bunches spinach (or substitute chard or kale) washed, dried, and torn into large pieces
butter or ghee
8 oz. paneer, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 onion, diced
1″ piece of ginger, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 fresh hot chiles, minced or 2 dried hot chiles, crumbled
4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 c. thick greek yogurt (preferably whole milk or 2%)
1/4 c. cream
In a large skillet with high sides, heat the butter or ghee over high heat and quickly saute the spinach just until it starts to wilt. Do this in batches if necessary. Remove to a plate and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium high, and heat more ghee in the same skillet. Add paneer, sprinkle with salt and fry until browned on one side. Toss and saute for a few moments longer, then remove to a bowl and set aside. Add a little more ghee to the skillet and add onion, garlic, ginger and chiles. Saute until onions begin to turn translucent. Add turmeric to pan and saute 1-2 minutes longer. Stir cream into the onion mixture, then add yogurt and cook until mixture comes together and is hot throughout. Return spinach (leaving accumulated liquid behind) and paneer to skillet and toss until incorporated with sauce. Taste and correct seasoning with salt. Serve with grilled naan or hot basmati rice.