All hell broke lose as a massive power outage left San Diego in complete darkness last Thursday night. No electricity...what? Is the world really coming to an end?? What used to be an ordinary event in India wasn't so ordinary here. We somehow made it home through the crawling traffic with all the traffic lights out. A painful drive, a torturous hot day without a fan, no cell phone service and a lottt of pending work for a big event I had on the weekend - not the kind of Thursday night I look forward to. To add to all of this, I had not really prepared for a power outage (since, you know, that's not the first thing on my mind every morning) and my fridge and pantry were essentially empty - at least as far as cooked foods were concerned.
I have never really been thrilled about the electric stoves in my kitchen. A power outage just reinforced the feeling! How would I cook and what would we eat?? No one was going to keep the grocery store or any restaurant open for me. I looked at the slab of paneer I had intended to grill on the labor day, but never got around to doing it. Uncooked paneer, and the fridge out of work - perfect! It would just get spoiled. Oh... but...wait. Paneer (a light bulb went off in my head) - that WAS perfect. How did I not think of my lovely grill??? Grill & paneer - that was all I needed to save the dinner.
Luckily, my fridge is always stocked with some simple everyday ingredients. A fresh green bunch of cilantro was just the ingredient to create a bright and light dish fit for a warm summer night. I turned to my trusted mortar-pestle to grind up some ginger-garlic-chili-cilantro, created a yummy yogurt marinade with the paste and the paneer was ready to roll. Yogurt is always a great base to marinate paneer. It keeps the paneer extremely moist and adds a great tang.
We got out in the patio and saw the hoards of people, getting some fresh air and soaking in the bright moon light. With dinner on my plate and some outside fresh air, I soon started appreciating the beauty of that night and forgot all about the million unfinished tasks for the weekend event. I'm not foolish to pass an opportunity of an unexpected break, after all. We enjoyed the delicious paneer tikka, played cards in candle light, went out for a walk and cooled off near the pool. The moon light had never seemed so bright before - it was such a beautiful night! That bright green, juicy paneer tikka was quite the picker upper.
Hara Bhara Paneer Tikka
12-14 Oz Paneer - cut in 1" cubes
1 Small green bell pepper - cut in bite size pieces
3/4 Cup yogurt
1 Small bunch cilantro
1 Serrano chili
2-3 Garlic cloves
1" Ginger piece
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
Salt to taste
- Grind ginger-garlic-chili-cilantro into a fine paste. I always find that using a mortar-pestle brings out some oils and flavors a mixie just can't! But go by whatever is convenient for you.
- Mix the paste with yogurt, cumin-coriander powder (for some smokiness) and salt to taste. Remember that grilling will tone the flavors way down, so your marinade should be a little strong.
- Toss the cubed paneer and green bell peppers into this marinade and let it sit for 30 minutes or so. It really doesn't take a long time for paneer to soak up flavors.
- For the best results, lay a piece of aluminum foil on your grill, poke some holes in it and spray some cooking oil on it.
- Put the paneer/bell peppers on skewers, spray some more oil on them and grill. The foil keeps paneer from sticking to the grill and the holes allow just the right amount of heat and flame to get the perfect charring.
- Once grilled, sprinkle some lime juice and enjoy the unbelievably moist, bright and smoky paneer tikka!