Carrots, Cashews and Dates in Smooth Yogurt

-Recipe from Yamuna mataji

          This colorful raita comes from good friend Mandakini Devi, an accomplished cook. The cashew and date combination can be replaced by almonds and golden raisins or pecans and currants. The yogurt is drained for 2-3 hours before being mixed into the salad to make a thick, rich sauce without the extra calories of added cream.

Preparation and draining time (after assembling ingredients): 2-3 hours
Serves: 4 to 6

2 cups (480 ml) plain yogurt, preferably homemade
3 medium-sized carrots (about pound/230 g), peeled and shredded
6 pitted dates, sliced into thin rounds, or 2 table spoons (30 ml) raisins or currants soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, then drained
3 table spoons (45 ml) dry roasted chopped cashews, almonds or pecans
1 teaspoon (5 ml) grated orange or lime zest
2 table spoons (30 ml) fresh orange juice, strained
2 table spoons (30 ml) granulated maple or date sugar
teaspoon (1 ml) cardamom seeds, coarsely crushed

1.    Line a colander with three thicknesses of cheesecloth (about 16 inches/40 cm square) or a white handkerchief. Place the yogurt in the cloth, gather up the four corners, and tie closed with a piece of kitchen twine. Hang the yogurt from a knob on a kitchen cabinet or a sink faucet where it can drip and drain into a bowl or sink. Let it drain undisturbed for 2-3 hours.
2.    Press the carrots between your palms to excess juice. Place the drained yogurt in a 1-quart/liter bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir until blended. Serve at room temperature or chill for 1-2 hours.