Raleigh, North Carolina chef Cheetie Kumar is known for her creative Indian-meets-Southern dishes at her restaurant Garland. Raita, a cooling Indian condiment, is a staple at her restaurant and on her table at home. The refreshing blend of whole-milk yogurt with spices and fresh cilantro is the perfect topper for just about any Indian dish, and it also tastes great with grilled meats or in a pita sandwich. It also tastes better a few days after it has been made. Fresh spices are key here; give them the sniff test before you use them. If you have whole cumin seeds and want to grind them yourself, heat 1 Tbsp. cumin seeds in a small unoiled skillet over medium, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Place the seeds in a spice grinder and process for 5 seconds. Yogurt is serious business in Indian cuisine, so it's worth it to seek out a good-quality brand. Wallaby brand yogurt is strained, instead of processed with added thickeners such as cornstarch, pectin, gelatin and carob bean gum. Brands processed with added thickeners are also likely to contain more sugar and less protein. A good rule of thumb is to seek out yogurt with "live and active" cultures and as few ingredients as possible. (Live and active cultures refer to the organisms that convert pasteurized milk to yogurt.) Prepared raita with cilantro can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to four days. If you're adding cucumbers, store in the refrigerator up to 2 days.
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Raita with Cucumber
Prepare Simple Raita. Grate 2 Persian cucumbers (3 oz. each) using the largest holes of a box grater; squeeze out excess liquid with your hands. Stir into Simple Raita.