I first encountered raita on a trip to India at the age of sixteen. This six-week journey with my dad forever instilled in me a love and interest in Indian culture, in particular the food. I have vivid memories of the two of us in kitchens throughout South India, peeking into sputtering pots and smelling spices I'd never heard of. About ten years later, I found myself living in Western India with my husband, seeking out the same home cooking lessons. Of all the dishes I learned, basic raita is the thing I make the most often. As I said before, raita is delicious with almost everything it encounters and can be made in a matter of minutes. It's infinitely adaptable, with no set rules or recipe, so feel free to adjust and change the ingredients to your preference (or to what you have in the fridge). The basic idea is a fresh whole milk yogurt doctored up with a range of fresh vegetables and herbs. This simple combination yields a rich, flavorful addition to almost any meal. I love raita the most when paired with a spicy vegetarian curry and plenty of rice.
Basic Raita Makes 1 1/2 cups 1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced 1 medium-sized tomato, diced 1/4 cup red onion, diced 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt 5-10 mint leaves, chiffonaded salt and pepper to taste Prepare all vegetables and place into a medium-sized bowl. Stir in yogurt and mint until evenly combined. Season with a little salt and pepper.Related: Quick, Cool Cucumber Sauce (Images: Leela Cyd Ross)