Pomegranate cucumber raita
I learned the hard way that raita (pronounced, rye-tuh) is a must-have condiment to serve with wonderfully spicy Indian cuisine.
A smooth, cooling, yogurt-cucumber dip, it puts out the pepper fire that water just can’t begin to squelch.
I’m afraid I have to file this under “things that everyone in the whole world knows but me.”
Thanks to an unfortunate incident in my college years involving an adorable little scotch bonnet pepper and a complete ignorance of the Scoville scale, I avoided super-hot chili peppers throughout my adulthood. Jalapeños, sure. Serranos, you bet. Cayenne, in teeny, tiny pinches. Habaneros? No. way.
Once burned, twice shy, as the (quite apt) saying goes.
Indian cuisine, however, made me rethink my hot-hot-hot-chili-pepper boycott. Spicy, aromatic curries are a craving, with or without the mouth-on-fire heat. I had no choice to but to find a way to work through it.
Leave it to the culinary geniuses behind these dishes to also provide the balm: yogurt’s miraculous, soothing effects on pepper burn. One bite is enough to tame the heat, and the creamy, cucumbery flavor melds so well with classic Indian flavors.
This winter, I’ve been putting pomegranate seeds in everything, especially my morning blueberry Greek yogurt, adding a pop of grape flavor and a satisfying crunch. Likewise, they found a home seamlessly in this raita recipe. I recently served it as a side to tandoori cauliflower (which I’ll be posting soon). Quite lovely, all the spicy vegetable flavors set off by a touch of tartness.
My love for this ruby fruit has grown leaps and bounds. A fruit best knife-scored and then cracked open by hand, the jewel-like arils reveal themselves layer by layer, nestled in chambers of peelable white membrane. The aril contains both juice (high in vitamins B5 and C) and seed (which, while crunchy, is entirely edible and is a source of fiber and micronutrients) and can be consumed whole or smashed to extract the juice.
Oh! And, with its tzatziki-like ingredients, it also makes a great dip, especially for mini pita breads.
Pomegranate cucumber raita
- 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed
- 1 cup Greek-style yogurt (either 0% and 2% works great)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
- 1 small green onion, both white and green parts, minced
- Pomegranate seeds
- Grate the cucumber directly into a bowl (it will be a juicy experience). Move the cucumber grates to a sieve and let drain for about a half hour. (If you’re short on time, roll them into a triple thickness of paper towel and squeeze out the liquid over the sink.)
- Spoon the yogurt into a bowl and give it a good stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in the cumin, coriander, and salt, mixing well, then add the drained cucumber grates, cilantro, green onion, and pomegranate seeds.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.