By summer’s end, when your body has accumulated several months of heat, the idea of cooling down holds special appeal. And while you might be tempted to reach for a cold drink or ice cream to soothe your body, there are other, delicious, healthier foods that can do the trick, like today’s cucumber raita. Getting into the kitchen on a hot day might not sound like the best suggestion, but this effortless recipe will make it worth your while.
Consider for a moment two seemingly disparate foods: cucumber raita and ice cream. In many ways these two are very different, yet both can be grouped into the category of foods that people eat to cool off. However, of ice cream’s many virtues, cooling the body isn’t really one of them. Milk can be challenging to digest, and eating it cold heightens this characteristic. Hard to digest foods cause the body to exert excessive effort, and in turn, create heat in the body. On the other hand, cucumber raita does more than taste good; it really does have the ability to support your body when the temperatures soar.
When it’s very hot, your body does a lot of work to keep cool. You can choose to support it in its effort through what you eat. Nature, in beautiful alignment with us, offers us foods that are cooling and easy to digest during the hot season, like watermelon, cucumbers, and a number of sweet fruits. Eating light, easily digestible, seasonal foods now means your body will have more energy to keep cool. In Ayurveda, cucumbers are considered a digestive aid; if you combine them with yogurt and digestive spices like cumin, you create a well-balanced food that harmonizes with your body during this time of year. Also, by eating seasonally, you’ll assist your body in harmonizing with the larger natural world.
Making Cucumber Raita
Cucumber raita is such a simple but powerful food. At first it might not seem like enough to serve as dinner and yet, after a few bites on a hot day, you might realize that you don’t really want or need anything more. But if you’re in the mood for a larger meal, cucumber raita is delicious with flatbread, rice, various types of grains, or any spicy food. The recipe below only takes ten minutes to prepare; even on a hot day, toasting cumin for it is worth it. Not only will you have the pleasure of a complex, smoky fragrance wafting through your kitchen, you’ll be delighted with the little bursts of flavor they impart in the slightly salty, slightly sour yogurt.
After a hot summer, most of us are ready to embrace the impending, cooler fall weather. You can ease your body into fall through what you eat. Cooling, easy to digest foods like cucumber raita will help your body break down the heat which has accumulated over the summer. Because after all, you don’t want your body to experience the same jarring feeling your psyche experiences when Halloween decorations appear, so suddenly, in stores. Adjusting your diet seasonally will help you stay present and live in harmony with the larger world in a way that those changing selections in stores never could. Well, except maybe for those super cute ornamental gourds. They never seem to come too early, but maybe I’m biased.
Cucumber Raita (Vegetarian, Gluten-Free)
Serves: Makes 3 cups
Total Time: 10 minutes
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3 cups plain yogurt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup finely chopped, peeled cucumber
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- sea or pink Himalayan salt, to taste
- mild chili powder (optional, for garnish)
- Toast the cumin seeds in a small, dry saucepan over medium heat, shaking the pan, for about four minutes, until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
- Combine all the remaining ingredients except for the chili powder, and mix. Garnish with chili powder, if using, and serve.
Photos by Shiraz Leyva