Looking for Indian cottage cheese snack ideas for our next cocktail party?
Well I am going to be a bit candid here – most likely your search (looking through restaurant menus or online recipes) will end with Paneer Tikka or variations of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Paneer Tikka but I don’t quite love the fact that Indian cuisine gets food credits mostly in the space of spicy and savory food. As I travel around the globe, it’s endearing to witness far-reaching presence and acceptance for Indian cuisine. I do feel proud when people from different origins often tell me how much they relish Indian food (with a side not of “Oh boy it’s so rich”).
Sadly, this may also be true to some extent, for example if I think of an Indian appetizer to pair with a fine wine, I may be able to think of very few options. Having said that let’s acknowledge that Indian cuisine is assorted, with a historical presence of over 8000 years. It offers a wide gastronomic range influenced by the climate, soil, ethnicity and culture.Therefore, I often find many worlds like taste notes in Indian food.
Unfortunately, the global gastro geeks are yet to discover a lot of Indian food beyond the tikkas and curries. One of my sole reasons to conceptualize Honey Buzzard was this – to make people realize that Indian food is much diverse and also affable to other cuisines. Today my taste target is to create cottage cheese snack ideas to serve on wine evenings.
This new recipe is called Pesto Paneer Tikka, for which I am going to adapt an Indian cottage cheese tikka to an Italian taste. I personally enjoy creating friendships between recipes from Indian and other cuisines. It’s always so exciting to adapt from different cuisine cultures, and create an unexplored taste.
Pesto Paneer Tikka – Contemporary & a winner with white wine!
I usually experiment a lot with amalgamating Indian and Italian recipes. Today I am attempting to marry an Indian Tikka recipe and an Italian pesto sauce recipe. I am trying to create some cottage cheese snack ideas that pair perfect with wines and cocktails.
The proposition is to recreate the rather spicy Tikkas from traditional north Indian cuisine with a more delicate Italian pesto. The resulting taste of this fusion also references another very popular curry from northern India called Palak Paneer (cottage cheese cooked in spinach gravy). This curry is a tasteful contrast of creamy cottage cheese in a mildly savored spinach gravy. To some extent the cottage cheese grilled in a green basil sauce hints the taste notes of Palak Paneer recipe too!
In nutshell, I would introduce a plate of Pesto Paneer Tikka as an Indian personality with Italian sensibilities. Pesto Paneer Tikkas are perfect cottage cheese snack ideas for your next cocktail party. Pair them with a glass of Riesling or Pinot Grigio and you won’t regret it. Check them out!
What’s unique about Pesto Paneer Tikka?
The taste of the classic Italian Pesto in a char grilled style is a totally newfangled taste note
The cottage cheese paneer cooked with a nutty-cheesy Italian sauce is a dreamy creamy contrast
The adaptation of basil pesto sauce as marinate wipes away all the tikka spices making it a healthy choice
Pesto Paneer Tikka is a cottage cheese appetizer marinated in a traditional Italian pesto sauce and grilled in authentic Indian tikka style. It is a contemporary appetizer plate that pairs perfect with white wines. Also, this tikka is marinated in a nutty - herby pesto, instead of the tikka spices, therefore an absolutely healthy choice!
In a food processor jar, add basil leaves and pine nuts, blend few times.
Add the garlic and parmesan cheese in the jar and blend several times more. You may need to scrape the sides of the food processor jar, to make sure all the dry ingredients mix into a coarse paste.
While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. This helps to emulsify and prevents the olive oil from separating.
Finally, stir some salt and freshly ground black pepper into the pesto. You can store this pesto in fridge for few days.
Marinating the Cottage Cheese
Cut the cottage cheese into 1 to 1.5 inch cubes.
Cut the onion and yellow bell pepper into big pieces.
Make sure to pat dry the paneer cubes and veggies if wet.
Take the pesto out from refrigerator and stir the thick cream into it. Don’t stir/ mix too well. (Make sure to do this step right before margination, to avoid thinning of your pesto)
Now in a big bowl, add the pesto, cottage cheese cubes and veggies. Start covering the pieces in marinate. Make sure everything is well covered in marinate.
Cover the bowl and keep in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hrs.
NOTE: You may prefer a stronger flavor of pesto on your cottage cheese tikkas (I actually like it that way). If you do, just make some extra pesto than the recommended quantity in this recipe and apply a thicker coating of pesto while marinating the cottage cheese.
Grilling the Cottage Cheese Tikkas
Pre-heat oven to 200 C/ 390 F 10-15 minutes before ready to cook.
Arrange the cottage cheese cubes, onions, and yellow bell peppers on 3 – 4 skewers. Make sure to leave little space between cottage cheese and veggies so that everything gets cooked well. Spray or brush some olive oil on the skewer arrangements.
Usually I place the skewers on a pan or baking dish with raised boundaries. This is to ensure that the food does not stick to the bottom of the rack.
Now place the dish with skewers on the cooling rack of the pre-heated oven.
Bake for 15 minutes, turning the skewers around once half way. After 15 minutes, spray a little more oil on the skewers. Now, retain only the upper element of the oven and grill for 2-3 minutes till the outer surface of the food is slightly charred.
Finally remove the dish with the skewers from the oven. Be careful while removing the food from the skewers as the paneer tends to get really soft during the grill and may break up. (Alternatively, you can serve the tikkas with the skewers directly on the serving platter).
To garnish you may squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top and sprinkle fresh ground pepper.
Remember Tikkas taste the best when served crisp and hot, right off from the oven! So plan to cook them just a while before you are ready to eat or serve.
Usually, Indian style tikkas are paired with coriander or mint green chutney. However, I personally love these pesto paneer tikkas with a pepper sauce or coriander cream cheese.
Some tips for getting the pesto marinate right–
Avoid making a very fine pesto dressing. A coarse texture works better for covering the cottage cheese during margination process.
Often people use Romano or other hard cheese for making pesto, however for this Paneer Tikka marinate I recommend using Parmesan only. I personally feel that Parmesan provides the best taste results with Cottage cheese paneer.
In traditional tikka recipes yogurt is added to the marinate. Yogurt helps in softening the meat or cottage cheese paneer from inside while it is resting with the marinate masala a couple of hours before grilling. However, adding yogurt does not work the best with Pesto marinate. As a substitute I use a little bit of thick cream, this helps soften the paneer and does not bother the pesto flavors. However, if you want to compensate the calories from cream, it’s ok to reduce a little bit from the recommended quantity of cheese.