Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen

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9781501100871: Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen
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Born in New Delhi, raised in the Middle East, and living in Washington, D.C., acclaimed food writer Monica Bhide is the perfect representative of the new generation of Indian American cooks who have taken traditional dishes, painstakingly prepared by their Indian mothers and grandmothers, and updated them for modern American lifestyles and tastes. Respectful of the techniques and history of Indian cuisine but eager to experiment, Bhide has written simple but deeply flavorful recipes. Modern Spice takes the vibrant tastes of India into the twenty-first century with a cookbook that is young, fun, sassy, and bold.
Dishes like Pomegranate Shrimp, Paneer and Fig Pizza, and Coriander-and-Fennel-Crusted Lamb Chops are contemporary and creative. Bhide pours Guava Bellinis and Tamaritas for her guests, and serves Chile Pea Puffs and Indian Chicken Wings; instead of Chicken Tikka Masala, she serves Chicken with Mint and Ginger Rub. Make-ahead condiments such as Pineapple Lentil Relish and Kumquat and Mango Chutney with Onion Seeds add a piquant accent to the simplest dish. There are plenty of options for everyday meals, including Butternut Squash Stew with Jaggery, Indian-Style Chili in Bread Bowls, and Crabby Vermicelli, along with plentiful recipes for elegant dishes like Tamarind-Glazed Honey Shrimp and Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Paneer. For an original and effortless finish, spoon Raspberry and Fig Jam Topping over tart frozen yogurt or a store-bought pound cake, or if you have more time, tempt guests with exotic sweets such as Saffron-Cardamom Macaroons or Rice Pudding and Mango Parfait.
As Mark Bittman says in his foreword, there is not a cuisine that uses spices with more grace and craft than that of India, and Bhide's recipes do so, but without long and daunting lists of exotic ingredients. In keeping with its local approach to global flavors, Modern Spice includes a guide to the modern Indian pantry and Monica's thoughtful, charming essays on food, culture, and family. Eight pages of gorgeous color photographs showcase the recipes.

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About the Author:

Mark Bittman is the author of Food Matters, How to Cook Everything and other cookbooks, and of the weekly New York Times column, The Minimalist. His work has appeared in countless newspapers and magazines, and he is a regular on the Today show. Mr. Bittman has hosted two public television series and has appeared in a third.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

introduction to
Modern Spice

A husband says to his wife, "Honey, I love the way you bake ham. But why do you cut the end off? That is my most favorite part."

"My mother cooks it this way," she replies. "It's tradition."

Later she calls her mother. "Mom, why do we cut the end off the ham?"

The mother does not know. She calls her mother-in-law, from whom she learned the recipe.

"Why do we cut the ends off, Mama?"

"Ah, that," says the 100-year-old mother-in-law. "When I first cooked a ham, I didn't have a pan big enough."

I love this story -- just because we have always done things in one way, it does not make it the only way to do something. So if fennel- and-chile-crusted tilapia and basmati rice with pine nuts and mint, accompanied by a Guava Bellini, does not sound Indian to you, think again! Indian food has come a long way from the same old, same old world of mango lassis and tandoori chicken. While traditional Indian cooking required slaving in the kitchen for hours, modern Indian cooking makes a virtue of quick-cook techniques. While traditional Indian cooking relied on a myriad of spices and herbs, modern Indian cooking focuses on taking a few spices and bringing out their flavors. While traditional Indian cooking was perceived to be difficult and fussy, the foundation of modern Indian cooking is perfection in simplicity.

Yes, as a new generation of modern Indians, we are changing everything.

We love tradition, but embody change.

We respect technique, but are playful.

Our style is refined; our tastes are global.

Our new cuisine is a reflection of our lives today, here and now. Just as traditional curries and dishes cooked painstakingly from scratch reflect our mothers' and grandmothers' generations, our dishes reflect our modern lifestyles. They are easy, fun, and intensely flavorful.

This fun, sassy approach to Indian-inspired food is what you will find in this book. The recipes I have created and present here are vibrant and enticing, yet they are simple, refined, and adapted to modern lifestyles: this is Indian food as it is cooked now. This is a book for today's generation that does not want yesterday's style of doing things. As a community we are creating new styles, new traditions, and a new cuisine that needs to be captured.

This book takes Indian cooking and translates it for our generation -- this book embraces the intense, spicy, Indian flavors but is not stuck on an artificial standard of authenticity that no longer exists even in India.

I understand the soul of Indian cuisine; I understand the dishes, their roots, and the richness of history that surrounds the food. It is this knowledge that sets me free and gives me the freedom to play with them, to evolve the dishes. Growing up in the Middle East, I learned authentic Indian dishes from the talented and knowledgeable hands of my father and mother. During frequent visits to India, I moved from my grandmother's kitchen to those of my mother's cousins and friends, along the way gathering delightful anecdotes and learning authentic recipes. Fifteen years ago I moved to the United States, and since then the Indian cooking that I learned has changed so much. All these experiences are what I am sharing with you in Modern Spice.

This book does not have any recipes for mango lassi -- there are 200 books out there (including two of my own!) that you can read for that -- instead it brings you a Guava Bellini. It doesn't offer chicken tikka masala; it provides a recipe for chicken gently simmered in fresh cilantro and mint. This is Indian, my way: a reflection of the Indian cooking of today and the style of the modern Indian.Copyright © 2009 by Monica Bhide

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2009
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