Manisha Pandit, creator of the popular food blog Indian Food Rocks, is a master behind the stove and camera lens. In her monthly column, she shares Indian recipes and cooking techniques that are as pleasurable to see as they are to swallow.
In this post, Manisha cools off with cucumber raita.
When the mercury soars, like it has been lately, I find myself turning away from iced teas and chilled sugary drinks, seeking instead the refreshing and reviving taste of a cucumber. I attribute it to the memories of my childhood: hot sun, dusty roads, parched throat, street-side vendors with small quartered cucumbers that could be quickly sprinkled with salt and a secret spice, if my taste buds were in the mood for that extra kick.
There's nothing quite like a cucumber whether quartered, sliced, or grated. Add some yogurt, crushed peanuts, and a tadka (seasoned oil) to make a raita that can be part of your meal or an uplifting snack. The latter is what it has been for us lately.
A raita almost always has yogurt as an essential ingredient. It can be made with fruits like pineapple, banana, or even mango, or with vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkin, spinach, or onion. Raita can be a simple blend of a couple of veggies with yogurt with little to no spice, or it can be seasoned with a well-made tadka. In general, garam masala is not an ingredient that finds its way into a raita.
I like to think of my cucumber raita as both the lazy person's raita as well as one that preserves the minerals and nutrients present in cucumbers. Traditionally, in Indian kitchens, the cucumber is grated then squeezed to discard all those very juices that I find refreshing. This is to prevent the raita from becoming too runny, but this is not a problem in my mind.
Peanuts and yogurt add some protein to this raita. I prefer to buy unroasted peanuts from my local Indian store and roast them myself, rather than use pre-roasted peanuts.
In my very first article here on Cooking Boulder, I introduced the technique of tadka and the role it plays in developing the flavors of a dish. This is an example of a dish where the tadka is added toward the end and is not cooked further. The nuttiness of the mustard seeds is rather incredible. You could skip the tadka completely or the peanuts, not both. Enjoy!
Makes about 3 cups
1 long English cucumber, peeled and grated (about 1.5 cups)
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 pinch asafetida (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ivory lentils
2 dried red chiles, each broken into two pieces
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2-1 cup whisked low-fat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
A few sprigs cilantro, chiffonaded
1/4 cup peanuts
Like this post? See Manisha's previous topic: Green Beans Koshimbir.
All photos by Manisha Pandit.
Manisha writes the food blog Indian Food Rocks, spiced with eclectic Indian food and entertaining anecdotes.