Three Indian-inspired cookbooks tantalized my tastebuds this year. Each presents a new way of experiencing Indian flavors and food.
Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking is actually a reprint of a book first published about ten years ago, but you-know-who made the whole "quick and easy" thing in fashion again so I can see why it was reprinted. What's interesting about the recipes, is that Jaffrey is not trying to dumb down the cuisine or simplify it. There actually are plenty of Indian recipes that don't take days to make or long shopping lists. The notes with each recipe tell you if it is a one-pot dish, how to serve it and sometimes the history of the dish. Many of the recipes are ones I had not seen before such as Chickpeas Cooked in Tea, Gently Stewed Beets, and Stir Fried Green Cabbage with Fennel Seeds.
The next book called Modern Indian Cooking, is still firmly more Indian than American but presents contemporary interpretations of classic Indian dishes. The merging of traditional Indian flavors with ingredients or techniques more likely to be found in the West, makes the dishes seem fresh and exciting. Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Lime is a perfect example of the unexpected, of a combination of India and European cuisines. Curry Corn Chowder with Roasted Poblanos sounds enticing and Paneer Picatta (sic) is a great vegetarian version of the classic Italian dish. Slices of paneer cheese are sauteed then the pan is deglazed with sherry, onions, capers and ginger are added and finally lemon juice, butter and cilantro.
American Masala is in some ways the least Indian. These are the recipes from the home kitchen of restaurant chef Suvir Saran. Masala is the Hindi word for a spice blend, and also refers to excitement and vibrancy, says Saran. While there are plenty of Indian recipes, there are also plenty of recipes with nary an Indian hint of spice such as Three Cheese Spinach Dip, Asparagus Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Lemon Raspberry Cream Cake or Honey Glazed Pork Roast with Vegetable Confit. Still, the use of garam masala changes the nature of some dishes such as Fried Chicken Masala, Spiced Meatballs with Tomato Chile Sauce or Scallops with Roasted Red Pepper Chutney. I guess if the concept is vibrant dishes, it certainly achieves it.