Not quite a sauce and not quite a salad, a raita is an easy and versatile yogurt-based side dish. In the heat of summer, when you're feeling lazy, this traditional Indian accompaniment is the perfect, cooling foil to grilled foods--it’s been described as the Indian answer to coleslaw. There are zillions of recipes, but the basic ingredients are plain yogurt and chopped or grated vegetables. You can use leftover vegetables if you like and make it ahead; it keeps well in the fridge for a day or two. Depending on appetites, count on serving about 1/2 cup (125 ml) raita per person.
- 1 cup plain yogurt 250 ml
- 1 cup vegetables diced, chopped, or grated
- 1 tsp cumin ground
- salt to taste
- 1 cup any leafy green
I usually use 3.2% fat yogurt. If you use a low fat or nonfat yogurt, you may want to thicken it by straining it: Place it in a coffee filter in a strainer and let the whey drain out for about an hour.
- Cucumber. Diced or grated cucumber is the classic raita vegetable. Consider the cucumber version your all-purpose raita. If you tone down the spices, it works with many non-Indian foods, especially Middle Eastern or Greek dishes.
- Potato. If you have a leftover baked or boiled potato, chop it and toss it in.
- Beets or carrots. A cooked beet, diced, will turn the yogurt bright pink. You can grate raw carrots or dice cooked ones into your raita. The natural sugars in these root vegetables balance well with grilled foods with a lime-, lemon-, or vinegar-based marinade. I've never tried parsnip raita, but it would probably be delicious and unusual.
- Banana. Diced banana makes a raita that’s great with grilled or curried chicken.
- Leafy greens. Shred lettuce, in any of it's many varieties, or spinach into raita. (You can wilt the spinach if you like.) This is helpful when you have a little lettuce in the fridge--not enough for a salad.
- Peppers. Dice green, red, or yellow bell peppers--raw or roasted.
- Okra. Slice okra into 1/2" (1 cm) lengths and fry until crisp. Drain on paper towels before mixing into the yogurt.
- Eggplant. Chop or roughly mash the flesh of grilled eggplant for raita.
- Freshly grated coconut. As with banana, a fruity raita is good with chicken. You’ll need to crack open the nut, peel the brown inner skin and grate the white flesh. Don’t use the dessicated coconut in the plastic bag.
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