Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spinach and pea yogurt salad (raita)

Raita is a type of savory Indian yogurt salad filled with vegetables and spices. It's often served as a cool, creamy counterpoint to warm, spicy dishes (e.g., hard-boiled eggs in spicy tomato sauce). We just made this spinach and pea raita to go along with some chickpeas in ginger sauce, so this is the first end-of-the-week recipe blogging post.

1 1/2 cups frozen (or fresh) peas
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (plus a few pinches for the vegetables)
scant 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
scant 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Defrost and cook the spinach: put it in a bowl, add a splash of water and a pinch of salt, cover, and heat in the microwave for a few minutes (until the spinach is cooked), stirring occasionally. Drain in a strainer, pressing it with a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
2. Defrost and lightly cook the peas: put them in a bowl, add a splash of water and a pinch of salt, cover, and heat in the microwave for about a minute (or until no longer frosty). We do not fully cook the peas, as we like the texture they add to the dish; feel free to cook them longer if you'd like. Drain the peas in a strainer.
3. Mix the yogurt, sour cream, cumin, coriander, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper together in a bowl.
4. Stir the spinach and peas into the yogurt mixture; serve.


The spinach and peas should be added only shortly before the dish is served; if you're working in advance, do everything up through step 3 and then hold everything in the fridge until just before you're ready to eat.

You can use whatever vegetables you desire. Sahni's (1980) original recipe used exclusively cooked spinach, but you could use cooked potatoes, cooked eggplant, raw tomatoes, raw onions, and/or anything else you think would be good. We typically add about 2 cups total of cooked vegetables.

This recipe is modified from one in Sahni (1980); we added more vegetables and spices in proportion to the yogurt.

Sahni, Julie. 1980. Classic Indian Cooking. William Morrow & Co, NY. pp. 344-345

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