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Cooking Creatively - Roasted Vegetable with Caraway & Cumin Paneer

Working in a professional catering kitchen space, surrounded by amazingly talented chefs has its perks. But I’m not talking about all the delicious meals and tasty bites that find their way into the office (though that is a pretty nice perk, I have to say). I’m talking about feeling inspired by the people you work with and creating something delicious that comes from the heart.

So lunch hour rolled in, and we had some fresh ingredients leftover from an Iron Chef event we hosted earlier this week and I thought, maybe I can make something out of this. Now my go-to for vegetables lately has been to just roast them. It is such an easy and healthy way to prep a meal and you can season in so many different ways. I just love it.

After gathering the fresh ingredients, I did a quick stop at our pantry and spice rack and got few things that caught my eye: turmeric, mustard, herbs de provence, oregano and the staples for any dish: sea salt, black pepper, and olive oil. At this point I was just gathering things that spoke to me as I looked through the shelf; they wouldn't necessarily all mix well in the dish. The secret to cooking creatively and not feeling bound by a recipe is to have a variety of options at reach, and as you go through your main ingredients, let the options speak to you. Smell the spices one by one, look at the colors, think about the textures, and give space for your curiosity and creativity to shine through.

So here’s what I had to work with:

Main Ingredients:

  • Carrots

  • Purple cauliflower

  • Broccolini

  • Cherry tomatoes

  • Meyer lemon

  • Pearl onions

  • Garlic

  • Fresh oregano

  • Paneer cheese

After washing, peeling, and chopping all the main ingredients and seasoning with salt, pepper, and olive oil, I started to think about the flavor profile I wanted for the dish. I really like curried cauliflower so I decided to use the turmeric. From there I eliminated the herbs de provence and dried oregano (since I had fresh oregano on hand). Mustard? Why not, let’s give it a try and sprinkle some of that in.

I roasted the vegetables for about 12 min in a convection oven at 400F, stirring once halfway through. While the vegetables cooked I cut the paneer cheese in cubes and fried in a lightly oiled pan for about 3 minutes on each side. When the cheese was almost ready I sprinkled some caraway and cumin seeds and cooked for another minute.

Now here is a secret on paneer cheese we got from Chef Rahul from Bombay Belly, who shares the kitchen with us. Forget that paneer is a cheese and think of it as a half-brother to tofu. Yeah, you read it right, tofu. On its own paneer is rather bland in flavor but if you add it to a curry or any other kind of stew it will soften and incorporate the flavors of the dish. Panner is also a non-melting cheese making it the perfect candidate for frying, like we did in our recipe here. Another tip is season the paneer before you fry to give it a little more taste, just like you would with tofu.

The result? Well I have to say I was pretty happy with it and so were the folks at the office. I went in with just a few ingredients and a vague idea of what to make and came out with a great dish to share. You can do it to.

You can find the recipe below, give it a try and let us know how you like it. And don’t be shy to change it around, and if you do send us a note.

Roasted Vegetable with Caraway & Cumin Paneer Recipe


For Roasted Vegetables

1 cup Purple Cauliflower, cut into small florets

½ bunch broccolini, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

2 carrots, cut lengthwise into 3-inch strips

1 meyer lemon, sliced a ¼ inch thick and seeds removed

5-8 pearl onions, peeled and cut in half

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1-2 cups mini heirloom or grape tomatoes

2 Tbsp fresh oregano, roughly chopped

1 ½ tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Mustard

Salt & black pepper to taste

½ cup Olive oil

For Paneer

8 oz Paneer Cheese, cut into cubes

1 tsp Caraway Seeds

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

Heat the oven to 400°. In a bowl combine cauliflower, broccolini, carrots, lemon, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Whisk together oil, turmeric, mustard and oregano; pour over vegetables, season liberally with salt and pepper, and toss until evenly coated.

Place vegetables in a large rimmed baking sheets, and bake for 20-35 minutes, or until golden brown and tender. Make sure to stir vegetables halfway through cooking.

While vegetables are roasting, heat a skillet over medium heat with, drizzle of olive oil and once hot add paneer cheese. Cook cheese until golden on all sides, about 4-6 minutes. Add caraway and cumin seeds and cook until just fragrant, stirring once or twice, about 1 minute.

Serve roasted vegetables with fried paneer cheese.

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