5 cups cooked Basmati rice
4 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
2 cups peeled and diced English cucumbers (in spring or summer), or 2 cups fresh pomegranate seeds (in fall or winter)
¼ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons white gram lentils (urad dal, found at Indian grocery stores, or chopped cashews are a good substitute)
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon asafoetida powder (found at Indian grocery stores)
1 to 2 medium green chiles with seeds (preferably serrano) with seeds, diced, or more to taste
12 medium curry leaves, torn into small pieces
Cilantro leaves or fresh curry leaves for garnish (optional)
1. In a large bowl, combine the rice, yogurt, and salt, kneading them together with your hands. Then stir in the cucumber (in spring or summer) or the pomegranate seeds (in fall or winter). Set aside.
2. In a small saute pan, heat the canola oil over medium heat. After a few minutes, when the oil is hot and shimmering, add in the lentils. When they’re just beginning to turn golden (after about 3 minutes), add in the mustard seeds and asafoetida powder. Stir briefly. You will hear a popping sound when the mustard seeds begin to cook.
3. After just a minute, when the popping becomes more frequent, add in the chiles and curry leaves. Stir for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
4. Pour the lentil-mustard oil over the rice mixture and stir well with a spoon.
5. This dish should be served at room temperature, or cold, and it’s great for a summer lunch or dinner. If you’re making it ahead, just stir in a bit of water to loosen it up before serving; it should have a porridge or oatmeal-like consistency.
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