Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cool Spinach Raita

Everywhere I go, the conversation seems to turn to food. It seems that Indian food is increasingly popular here in the US, and friends and acquaintances (and sometimes even perfect strangers in stores) will often ask me questions about Indian recipes and spices and restaurants. It is wonderful to see this interest in tasting the cuisine of my country, and many people now want to try Indian recipes in their own kitchens.

Most often, people I talk to are intimidated and confused by the long list of ingredients that they see in Indian cookbooks. Now, those of us who are familiar with cooking the foods of India know that it is only a matter of keeping a stocked pantry and getting to be friends with each spice and its unique features. But the flurry of CinnamomCuminCardamomClove is, understandably, quite frightening if you are new to the world of spices. That's why I wanted to talk about a book that I found in the library recently.

The cookbook is called "5 spices, 50 dishes" by Ruta Kahate. The premise of the book is that the author asks you to stock up on only five spices- coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, ground cayenne (what I know better as red chilli powder) and ground turmeric. Using just these 5 spices, plus other pantry staples like onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and perhaps just a couple of "specialty" ones like coconut milk and cilantro, the author offers 50 recipes. They come in all categories, like vegetables, lentils, rice, bread, meat and seafood.

I have to say that I liked this book very much. By keeping things simple and clean, the author is able to showcase some of the home-style dishes that, to me, are the gems of Indian cuisine. I think this is a book worth looking at, for anyone who is new to Indian cuisine and wants to start off with something tangible and basic, yet packed with flavor. If I understand correctly, the author's family comes from Western India (Maharashtra and Goa) and there is a distinct slant towards simple dishes from this region. For those of us who already cook the cuisines of India (especially that of Maharashtra and Goa) and who already have well-stocked Indian pantries, I don't know if the book is going to teach us anything new, quite frankly. But the book is wonderful for the audience that it is intended for.

Examples of Kahate's recipes include railway potatoes, spicy corn with mustard seeds and several everyday dishes like these. Here is another easy and delicious recipe adapted from this book. It is a cool raita (yogurt-based salad) that is just perfect for summer. Bright green spinach is folded into mildly spiced yogurt. Now, I missed the Food Blogga's event, but with the yogurt and the greens, this dish packs a calcium punch for sure.

Spinach Raita2008_89

(Adapted from 5 spices, 50 recipes by Ruta Kahate)
4 cups packed spinach leaves (I used baby spinach; chop leaves coarsely if using mature leaves)
1 t cumin seeds
1 C low-fat yogurt
2 T minced onion
1 t minced fresh ginger (I used 2 drops ginger spice extract)
salt to taste
4-5 mint leaves, shredded (optional)
1. Wash the spinach leaves. With water still clinging to them, place the leaves in a glass bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes, until they wilt but still remain bright green. Place the leaves in a colander to drain and cool.
2. Toast the cumin seeds lightly and crush them in a mortar and pestle.
3. Place the minced onion in a strainer and rinse with cold water. Drain. I saw Rick Bayless doing this on his TV show and I love this trick; the cold water rinses off the sharp acrid "raw onion" smell while keeping the flavor of the onion intact.
4. In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, salt, ginger, mint, cumin seeds, rinsed onion and wilted cooled spinach (chop the spinach coarsely if necessary). Chill until it is time to serve.

I served the spinach raita with some mixed-vegetable pulao, but it makes for a delicious side-dish to any meal, and would be a tasty dip as well. I am sending this raita to Siri for her yogurt event.

Some of my other favorite yogurt recipes:
Shrikhand (a no-cook dessert)
Dahi Bhaat (yogurt-rice)
Cabbage pachadi (a zesty salad)

*** *** ***

Several weeks ago, TheCooker sent me the sweetest "reverse Arusuvai" package filled with some wonderful Kachcha (raw) masala, a package of rosematta poha (so flavorful!) and a cute toy for our resident pooch.

Dale loves playing with the toy and has become quite possessive about it. Sometimes he uses it as a small pillow and lies down with his head on it. Even when he is not actually playing with it, he tucks it safely under his paw. You never know when V or I will run off with the toy, and he's not taking any chances!

Hope this week is going well for everyone...see you in a few.


  1. Spinach yogurt..yumm. You are so right about the growing interest in Indian food..this week, I ran into a couple at the Indian store who had just bought a lauki and had no idea what to do with it! I ended up giving them a recipe scribbled on a scrap of paper, and hoping there was a simple recipe book I could suggest. Thanks!

  2. Funny how I make this so often when spinach is in season, but haven't ever blogged about it :-)

    this book seems quite nice and your raita looks stunning. I love Dale's bone :-)

  3. Also, your no fry dahi wada is not on the list

  4. Hey Nupur, thats a super cool raita. Dale looks totally obsessed wt his red bone! :D tks for sharing this!! Lovely entry!

  5. I remember seeing this book in B&N some time back, but didn't bother to flip thur it...the raita looks yummy and creamy Nupur. Thanks for sending over to 'Frozen Yogurt' event..:)


  6. Hey thanks for sharing this. I'm always looking for new ways to use spinach and this goes with the Indian food we normally have.

  7. Very colourful raita and healthy too

  8. Nice way of using spinach in raita, Nupur! Looks delicious! :)

  9. Love the raitas with greens. The combination of yougurt and spinach can not be anything but eclectic! There used to be this green back home, called Bathua. We make a slightly smokey flavored raita with it, and its blissful.

    Dale is really very protective about his toy, and looks mighty thrilled :) A big woof to him, its always a pleasure to see this darling!

    Hope that you are having a great time.


  10. I walked past this book several time....Next time I'll pick it up.
    Dale never ever fails to make me smile. He is such a sweet bhu-bhu.
    We added another cat to our family. This one thinks she is a dog...walks around with a toy in her mouth.

  11. The pictures look yummm!! Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  12. yup indian food is getting popular especially with some many people tunring vegetarian giving them more options and flavor in Indian food...:)

  13. Nupur,

    I own a copy of this book and it really is a good one.
    Did you see the "Thalipeeth" recipe ? I thought it was a interesting one.

    Thanks for mentioning Ginger extract.
    BTW, the response on CupCakeProject is amazing. Take a look when you get a chance.

  14. You're right - once the pantry is stocked you're ready to go! I love that I've reached the point where I can decide to make a recipe and it turns out I already have everything I need. On the other hand, it's kind of fun when I must go to the Indian grocery store in search of a new-to-me spice :) Your spinach raita looks great - I'll have to keep it in mind for the next time spinach shows up in my CSA share!

  15. Nupur, questions about food is a welcome change! Spinach raita looks so cool and delicious.

  16. Enjay, I have to say that this book does not use specifically Indian vegetables, because it is attempting to use vegetables that are commonly found in the US and cooking them with Indian methods. Having said that, it is definitely a good place to learn about making simple subzis, a method that can be applied to just about any vegetable, including lauki :)

    Raaga, Well, I haven't listed every yogurt dish on this blog :) but the no-fry dahi wada is actually on the Red Chillies blog.
    I was thinking the very same thing when I saw the recipes in this book- they are simple things we make day in and day out but rarely blog about.

    Purnima, Yes, it was great to eat this on a hot summer evening.

    Siri, Thanks for hosting the event!

    Jyotsna, Yes, this would be great with any Indian meal.

    easycrafts, it sure is!

    Kalai, Thanks :)

    Musical, Oh, the raita with bathua certainly sounds blissful! Greens are a wonderful food; I don't use them nearly enough :)
    Dale says hello to you! Hope you are doing well and enjoying summer.

    TheCooker, I did not know you had a cat...and now two! We adore cats...Dale does not share our sentiments though so we are destined to be cat-less :D
    How cute that you kitty walks around with a toy in her mouth. Hey, I want to see pictures :)

    Sandhya, Thank you!

    Smita, Whether anyone actually turns vegetarian or not, Indian food does offer incredible new ways to enjoy grains, beans and vegetables, so I agree with you.

    Anjali, The response on the Cupcake Project is really incredible! I am so happy for you!

    Cathy, You really have a complete Indian pantry by now! Shopping in our international store is a complete treasure hunt because there is a wall of spices that are not arranged in any particular order :)
    The spinach raita is a must try in the dog days of summer!

    Indosungod, We are both posting raita-like stuff, I see :)

  17. Hi Nupur,
    I will admit that I was intimidated by the long ingredient lists of Indian recipes when I first started cooking Indian food. Then when I was in grad school, two Indian friends came over my house and gave Jeff and me a lesson in some Indian food basics and even brought us some spices from India! They helped dispel my concerns and made me feel more comfortable with it. Now I have plenty of Indian spices in my pantry and think of them every time I cook Indian dishes.

  18. hi Nupur
    this one looks cool ! :) reminds me of my mom's raita in which she used to put spinch paste instead of leaves. My favourite used to be with just mint paste along with a pinch of sugar salt and cumin.. nothing beeter than daal rice and raita on a hot summer day !.. have a cool week ahead :)

  19. I tried this recipe from your blog http://onehotstove.blogspot.com/2005/10/sweet-and-easy-fig-walnut-kulfi.html

    and it was delicious. I think I might just finish it all before my husband returns from out of town. Thanks!!

  20. After I started blogging, I only get platters and bowls for birthday. I am happy to collect all the blog props I could get :)

  21. I do think this sounds delicious and do-able!

  22. I enjoy this book too - nothing better than streamlining Indian cooking, at least for me!

    The spicy corn is a favorite recipe of mine.

  23. aww - that picture of dale with the red bone is sooo cute!
    Love the raita recipe - made me very nostalgic! Spinach raita was a summer staple when my grandmother was still alive. I have never tried it with onions though, and must remedy that quickly :)

    For a change, you might like to try adding half a teaspoon of 'kadahu-saar' (the 'rasa' from an oil-less south-indian pickle. Kadahu = mustard, saar= essence/juice?)to the raita. Gives it a nice flavour.

  24. On the hottest day of this week's heat wave, we ate at the Jackson Diner in Queens, New York. The diner is a wonderful Indian restaurant, and the raita there was the perfect antidote to both the spicy food and the hot weather.

  25. Nupur, the cookbook sounds like a great idea for a beginner cook of Indian Food, but honestly speaking, what fascinates me about Indian cooking is exactly the loooooong list of spices. The longer it is, the more I want to make it. I love the richness and variety of the final taste.

  26. Nupur,

    Stopping by your blog after a long time. your hand knitted dish clothes look fascinating. What kind of yarn do you use.


  27. Great tip re the onion.

    That Dalu, he knows you and V can't be trusted with his toy!

  28. Susan, Exactly- one just needs a little advice and help while learning a new cuisine and it is quite easy from then on. It is so nice that your friends could give you that start.

    Abhi, Mmm..that mint paste raita sounds delicious! I have mint growing in a pot and will be trying this soon..thanks for the idea :)

    RJ, Thanks for trying the recipe, and I am glad it worked for you. Thank you for the feedback!

    Suganya, And you make wonderful use of these blog props...so I hope you keep getting more of them! It sure is nice when people support our habit, isn't it ;)

    Kalyn, give it a try- I think you will love it!

    Karen, The spicy corn recipe is a very well-loved dish...I grew up eating it all the time. It is lovely that these kinds of recipes are becoming popular!

    Aspiring Annapoorna, The pickle sounds heavenly and I can imagine how wonderful the pickle juice would taste in a raita. Thanks for sharing that idea!

    Lydia, We ate at Jackson Diner quite often when we lived in NYC- we would go and gorge ourselves after shopping at the Patel Brothers supermarket next door. Raita is truly wonderful in summer.

    Zlamushka, Well, I think the simple dishes and the elaborate ones both have their place, but these days, I am falling in love with the latter :) But I know what you mean!

    Bhavana, For all the dishcloths, I have been using cotton yarn- the brand is called Sugar 'n Cream. Peaches 'n Creme is the same yarn, different brand.

    Alanna, Yes- that one simple tip makes such a huge difference. Yup- Dalu knows how to hoard his treasures and keep them safe :)

  29. Thanks nupur for the vahrevah advise. Actually its the food based social networking site ifood.tv that I like, just so happened that I chose the vahrevah video from ifood.tv.

    Do chk out the site www.ifood.tv am sure you would like it.

  30. Hey Nupur,

    I tried out the spinach raita as my contribution to a lunch thing with friends. Turns out that one of them reads your blog too and wanted to try this recipe out herself too! :)

    This recipe is just the kind I like - simple, quick, easy to prepare,and tastes pretty darn good!

  31. Hey Nupur!
    I make raita very similar to yours with an additional ingredient..pomegranate! I'm a big fan of those delicious red pearls bursting with flavor in the spinach raita!


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