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May 22, 2019
Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna, Mackenzie Kelley (Photographer), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US $28.00, Pp 256, April 2019, ISBN 978-1328482471
Vegetables Illustrated: An Inspiring Guide with 700+ Kitchen-Tested Recipes edited by America’s Test Kitchen, America’s Test Kitchen, US $40.00, Pp 530, March 2019, ISBN 978-1945256738
Steak and Cake: More Than 100 Recipes to Make Any Meal a Smash Hit by Elizabeth Karmel, Workman Publishing Company, US $22.95, Pp 272, April 2019, ISBN 978-0761185741

Many Indians say their historical problems can be traced to their great food — particularly the spices and seasonings. Europeans came looking for spices to India and ended up colonizing the whole subcontinent. The rest is history, as they say. Consequently, Indian spices and seasonings have spread to all the four corners of the world but not many people in Europe and North America are good at cooking Indian dishes in spite of the availability of the ingredients. In Indian-ish, Priya Krishna provides recipes that will please the European and North American palate. Priya says that Indian-ish is a family project as much as it is her project. She writes, “It is the result of my mom writing one hundred recipes after stressful workdays; my dad doing hundreds of dishes wearing nothing but a lungi, my uncles and aunts rearranging their work schedules so they could help me write down their recipes…” Indian food is everyday food and easy to make. If Indian food were actually hard to make, billions of working Indian parents would not be whipping it up on the regular for their weeknight dinners. Priya also removes some misconceptions about Indian food. She says that there is no such thing as curry in the Indian cuisine — at least not the way you might know it. There are stews such as “kadhi,” which kind of sound like “curry”. Many people mistake Indian stews as curry. The term was largely popularized by Europeans during their colonization of India as a homogenous catchall for the various stews they encountered in Indian cuisine. The delicious and scrumptious recipes range from “Tamarind, fig, and Cumin Chutney” to “Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Green Pea Chutney” to “Garlic-Ginger Chicken with Cilantro and Mint” to desserts like “Sikand (Sweet Cardamom Yogurt)”. Indian-ish is an accessible cookbook that provides great recipes for those who love Indian cuisine. If you never tried Indian cuisine, try this one — you would love it.

*****

If you like Indian cuisine, you may be looking for more vegetarian recipes. Or you may be looking for vegetarian dishes to take care of your health. Vegetables Illustrated is a very easy-to-navigate book. The editors have organized it alphabetically by vegetable, from artichokes to zucchini. Each chapter opens with an introduction to the vegetable. There are a number of shopping and storage tips and secrets for the vegetable, followed by the newest information on different veggie varieties, and the best prep techniques. They have also included simple side dishes as well for each main dish. They can be used as appetizers, salads, soups/stews, and snacks. The main dishes are vegetarian but some dishes also include meat, poultry, or seafood. Some of the dishes are also baked. You can switch and swap as you like. The editors of Vegetables Illustrated say that it showcases the versatility of vegetable in both expected and unexpected ways. The cooks at America’s Test Kitchen have developed plenty of innovative new dishes such as “Teriyaki Stir-Fried Garlic Scapes with Chicken and Grilled Ramps.” Many of the chapters include a special feature called Vegetables Reimagined, with photographs and instructions that walk you step by step through a highlighted recipe chosen for its original technique. For example, you can transform humble parsnips into a rich, spice-infused hummus through the magic of the microwave. You will also discover how to char avocado slices in a skillet to make a smoky, creamy relish for turkey burgers. You will learn to oven-roast fennel wedges low and slow in seasoned olive oil for a silky-textured side dish that’s perfect with a holiday roast. America’s Test Kitchen features 15,000 square feet of kitchen space including photography and video studios. It is the home of Cook’s Illustrated magazine and Cook’s Country magazine and is the workday destination for more than 60 test cooks, editors, and cookware specialists. Their specialists test recipes over and over again until they understand how and why they work and until they arrive at the best version. It is rare 700+ delicious and healthy recipes are jam-packed in one book. Vegetables Illustrated is a treasure trove for vegetarian foodies. Every vegetarian foodie must have it.

*****

Everyone wants delicious food but not necessarily vegetarian food. When we celebrate we want great meat dishes and mouth-watering desserts. Steak and Cake recipes are made for celebrations. Elizabeth Karmel says that best steaks are cooked simply and by two basic methods (grill and cast-iron or carbon steel pan). Most of the steak recipes are differentiated and complemented by the compound butter, sauces, and sides that go with the steaks. There are a Steak Primer and a Cake Primer on the back of the book. The most important part of the Steak Primer is the explanation of all the different cuts of steak — where they come from, their flavor profile, and what the grades of beef mean. The cake recipes are quite easy-to-make. In fact, these are typically recipes for home cooks. There are actually white, yellow and chocolate cakes — and a selection of icings, glazes and frostings, including buttercreams and stabilized whipped creams that you can use to create layer cakes, sheet cakes, cupcakes, and the like for those occasions that call for a traditional cake instead of one of the more specialized cakes that are paired with the steaks. There are important tips like how to prevent the cake from sticking to the pan. The scrumptious recipes range from “Cowboy Steak with Whiskey Butter” with “Whiskey Buttermilk Bundt Cake” to “Beef Tenderloin Kebabs with Bacon, Shallots, and Mushrooms” and “Pumpkin Palooza Cake Walk” to “Hanger Steak with Garlic Smashed Potatoes” paired with “Banana Pudding Ice Cream Cake.” Elizabeth Karmel says that it should be more about the occasion than the meal. When you celebrate, you can choose your own drinks. It does not matter whether you drink white or red wine or not at all. Although she offers pairings of steak, sides, and cakes, you can put together your own favorite combinations or change every time you make them. You don’t have to be rigid. You can even cook either of them — steak or cake — if you want. Steak and Cake is a collection of mouth-watering recipes for steaks and cakes. It allows you to have a party every day — even twice a day every day.

 

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