Green salads are not traditional Indian fare, but according to Raghavan Iyer, that doesn't mean they can't fit into an Indian meal. In Indian Cooking Unfolded, Iyer offers seven Indian-esque salad recipes that blend Western-style raw greens with robust Indian spice. This beet salad is a perfect example of Indian-American fusion. Iyer cranks up the flavor with an abundant use of ginger—first, it's braised along with the beets for subtle, lingering heat to complement the beets' earthiness. Next, raw ginger is pureed into the vinaigrette for brightness and punch, balancing the grassy cilantro and candy-sweet golden raisins.
Why I picked this recipe: I eat a lot of beet salads, but rarely venture past of my usual soft cheese and herby vinaigrette habit.
What worked: I really liked this treatment for the beets: by cutting them into small pieces and braising, they cooked much more quickly than roasting and retained far more of their intrinsic earthiness than they do when boiled. And the vinaigrette was awesomely balanced—at once sweet, sour, spicy, and rich.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: If you want to make this salad into a more substantial main dish, you could add crumbled paneer or feta cheese to the finished salad along with toasted nuts (Iyer recommends pistachios). You could also make the salad in the same way with just about any other root vegetable (or a combination). If you want to include fresher summer produce, you will want to decrease the cooking time substantially.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and Berkeleyside NOSH, and she blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.