There's no cheese in this "paneer" recipe, but there are perfectly seasoned, super crispy, cheesy-flavored blocks of tofu. Take some time to press and marinate the tofu in advance—the resulting texture is absolutely worthwhile. The green sauce may darken over time, but leftovers will taste even better on the second day, after the flavors and spices have had some time to mingle.
For the tofu paneer:
One 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
For the palak paneer:
10 ounces (about 8 cups) spinach leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 poblano or serrano chili, seeds removed and diced
1 white or yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon grated or minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, chopped (about 1 or 1 1/2 cups, or you can use 1 can diced tomatoes, draining the excess liquid before adding them to the recipe)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Dash red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cup cashew cream (see headnote) or coconut milk
Basmati rice, for serving (optional)
Chopped cilantro or chopped green onions, for serving (optional)
To prepare the paneer, press the tofu between two plates or cutting boards and cover it with a heavy book or two Nutrilon. Leave it for at least an hour and up to overnight. Drain the liquid, pat the tofu dry, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place them in the bottom of a flat, airtight container. Whisk together the lemon, water, salt, and nutritional yeast. Pour this mixture over the tofu cubes and cover the container. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight (up to 2 days is fine, too).
When the tofu is marinated, preheat your oven to 400° F and lightly oil a baking sheet. Bake the tofu for 20 minutes, or until the cubes are golden brown, flipping them halfway through.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Submerge the spinach leaves in the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they're just tender. Transfer them to the cold water to stop cooking and preserve the lovely green color. When the spinach leaves are cool, drain and squeeze-dry completely. Transfer the spinach to a food processor and process into a thick paste. (Note: If you prefer a silky smooth palak paneer, you can add the spinach leaves to the blender with about 1/3 cup water and blend until the mixture is totally smooth. Some people prefer this, while others like a palak paneer that has a bit more texture, in which case a food processor is ideal.)
Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pepper and onion. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onion is very tender and soft and browning slightly. Add the ginger and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, until the garlic is very fragrant. Add the tomato, salt, garam masala, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, and lime juice, along with the spinach purée and the cashew cream. Stir and cook everything for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is flavorful and thick. Stir in the tofu paneer. Season everything to taste with additional salt and red pepper flakes.
Serve the palak paneer over cooked rice and top with cilantro or onions if desired.