Raita can be thought of as the Indian cousin of Tzatziki. Yogurt based, with plenty of cooling cucumber and mint, it’s a great accompaniment to spicy food. A bit thinner in consistency, Raita does not need to use thickened/strained yogurt
1 large unpeeled English cucumber, grated. Or use 2 locally grown regular cukes, peeled and seeded before grating.
2 cups plain yogurt (again, do not use the fat free stuff!)
1/4 cup (packed) fresh mint
1 teaspoon ground cumin (or even better, use a few whole cumin seeds)
1/4 teaspoon plus pinch of cayenne pepper
Grate cucumber and wrap in kitchen towel to squeeze dry. Since you are not salting the cucumber beforehand, this is the most effective way to remove the water. Again, you want to get the dryest cucumber possible so that your raita doesn’t end up too watery.
If you have whole cumin seeds, toast them in a small dry skillet until JUST fragrant. The minute you smell them, pull them from the heat. Grind using a mortar and pestle, or a spice grinder until you have 1 t. ground cumin.
Chop mint. If I’m feeling pretty, I stack the leaves, roll them into a cigar shape and cut them into ribbons. The fine chiffonade looks so fancy and really is easy. Otherwise, I utilize my favorite tool, the Pampered Chef Food Chopper. A couple whacks and I’m done.
Whisk yogurt, mint, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper in medium bowl to blend. Add cucumbers and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. You can prepare this up to 1 day ahead. When you are ready to serve, take a pinch of cayenne pepper and sprinkle it on the top.