Raji Cuisine : Indian Flavors, French Passion

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9780060192228: Raji Cuisine : Indian Flavors, French Passion

When Raji Jallepalli was a child growing up in India, she loved to sneak into the kitchen to carefully observe the cook and ask questions about whatever happened to be on the stove.Her parents discouraged such behavior--since Indian ladies did not cook. With a career in the kitchen unthinkable, Raji immersed herself in a career in microbiology. Years later, she visited France and fell in love with French food and wine. On first tasting the food she thought, "This is nice, but it could use some of the assertive flavors of my homeland as well as some lightening up."

Three important influences--her Indian upbringing, scientific background, and love of French cuisine--inform Raji's cooking and account for her incredible success as a chef, and a self-taught one at that. Her eponymous restaurant, Restaurant Raji in Memphis, Tennessee, was nominated for a James Beard Award in 1996 and 1997 and helped establish Raji as one of this country's hottest culinary stars. She has been called "a major player" by the New York Times, and her restaurant was dubbed "one of the most exciting in America" by Food & Wine. Raji defines her brand of fusion as "a rather quiet combining of vastly different cultures, philosophies, and cooking techniques." In her kitchen she retains the basic principles and balance of French cuisine while introducing the profound bouquets of Indian cooking. As star chef and Raji fan Charlie Trotter writes in the foreword, "Hers becomes one cuisine--not a melding of two. It is completely natural, there is nothing contrived about it."

All the recipes in Raji Cuisine come from Raji's restaurant but are adapted for the home kitchen. A full glossary of Indian spices appears, along with a primer on techniques and notes on choosing wine to accompany Raji's uniquely flavored fare.

Outstanding, easy-to-follow recipes, gorgeous four-color photographs, and Raj'i's own reflections on her incredible journey to stardom in America's foremost culinary circles--all combine to make Raji Cuisine a welcome and remarkable debut from an extraordinary talent.

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Review:

"While mastering the art of French cooking," Raji Jallepalli writes in the introduction to her cookbook, Raji Cuisine: Indian Flavors, French Passion, "one learns to embrace the finesse, formality, control, and order of the classic restaurant cuisine that has evolved primarily through the hands of male chefs. In Indian cooking, you will find simple and quite ancient kitchen traditions laced with spontaneity, intense bouquets, and a very basic approach to preparing inviting meals that has evolved through the hands of women in the home kitchen." The food served at Restaurant Raji in Memphis, Tennessee, is a combination of the two methods. "In my kitchen," Jallepalli explains, "I retain the basic principles and balance of French cuisine while introducing the profound bouquets of Indian cooking."

Jallepalli divides her book into chapters that include hors d'oeuvres and appetizers, soups, salads and side dishes, meat, poultry, game, fish, vegetables, and desserts. She begins with Sevruga Caviar and Dal Blinis and ends with Chilled Mango-Saffron Soup. In between you'll find such dishes as Coconut Milk Soup with Lobster and Toasted Poppy Seeds, Veal Medallions Wrapped in Lotus Leaf, Tea-Smoked Quail with Hyderbad Biryani, and Lemongrass Sorbet with Sweet Spice Madeleines.

From the natural elegance of the recipes that Raji Jallepalli presents in Raji Cuisine (many of which are illustrated with beautiful color photographs) it would seem that these two threads of culinary tradition have been waiting to merge ever since the Age of Discovery first presented the possibility. Nothing seems forced or contrived. The masculine tradition of the French kitchen has gone home splashed with sandalwood and patchouli, forever changed. These are not every day recipes, but to plan a special dinner party around Raji Cuisine would truly spring a joyful surprise on the unsuspecting. --Schuyler Ingle

About the Author:

Raji Jallepalli is the chef/owner of Restaurant Raji in Memphis,Tennessee, twice nominated for a James Beard Award.Trained as a microbiologist before becoming a chef, Raji has been featured in the New York Times,the Wall Street Joumal, Food & Wine, Food Arts, and other newspapers and food magazines.

Judith Choate is an award-winning writer, chef, and pioneer in the promotion of American food.A member of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, she is the author of sixteen cookbooks and the coauthor of many more.

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