Fresh Mint Raita

Fresh Mint Raita

Fresh Mint Raita

I’m always looking for a little sauce. Just that extra bit of savor and juice brings the meal together. Whether it’s grilled eggplant, steamed new potatoes, sautéed fish or roast chicken with carrots, sauce saves the day. A roast or pan-grilled something lends itself to a pan sauce of simple stock reduction sometimes lifted with a little wine, lemon juice or Dijon mustard swirled in to boil up the tasty pan drippings. But when supper’s a collection of warmed up leftovers, or a big composed salad or something off the grill, there’s always yogurt to bring flavors together. I’m continually telling people that no fridge should be without at least a couple jars or cartons of plain whole milk yogurt. It’s one of our most perfect foods, and little dollops here and there along with a swirl of olive oil take even the simplest bowl of beans and rice to Olympian heights. (See my blog post from September 6, 2014 about homemade yogurt.)

So what are we going to do with this yogurt to turn it into a classic sauce? During the cool, damp spring, mint grows in such profusion I have to keep pulling it up, or it will take over the entire garden. So: gather a hefty handful of mint. If you have no garden mint, look for it in the farmers’ market, grocery store—or substitute parsley.

We’re ready to spend ten minutes turning this lovely green herb into a classic Indian sauce. Raitas, made from all sorts of vegetables, herbs and fruits combined with yogurt, accompany spicy Indian foods, and add zest to almost any table. The green herb part of this raita is best prepared with a mortar and pestle, but if you don’t mind cleaning all the parts, you can also use a food processor. I’m sticking with the mortar, which gives a better result, since the herb meets no heat from a motor. The mortar can also double as a serving bowl. I’ll need a little garlic, salt and a sliver of chili to liven up my green mash, and I’ll dust a bit of ground cumin over the top for a finish. Ready, set, grind.

Fresh Mint Raita

1 small/medium clove garlic

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

2 thin slices green chili (Serrano) (optional)

2 loose cups fresh mint leaves (stripped from 1 ½ oz. bunch mint stems, washed and spun dry)

½-2/3 cup whole milk yogurt (not Greek)

few drops virgin olive oil

pinch ground cumin

Slice the peeled garlic into the mortar; sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Add chili and grind to a paste. Gather mint leaves into a bundle on cutting board and slice with chopping knife. Add mint to the mortar a handful at a time, grinding and pounding with the garlic mixture. Add pinches of salt as needed. (The salt as grit helps dissolve the mint, but take care not to use too much.) In a couple of minutes, the mass of mint leaves will have reduced to deep green mounded tablespoon of intense mint paste. Stir in the yogurt adding more or less to the desired minty-ness and check for salt. Top with a few drops olive oil and a light dusting of ground cumin. Serve with almost anything savory. Makes a scant cup; serves 2-4. Will keep 2-3 days in fridge though color may fade.

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon

 

 

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