Monday, July 29, 2013

Essential Indian Cookbooks

Indian cooks tend to make recipes from their own communities (Gujrati, Punjabi, Sindhi, etc.), and so when I grew up I basically knew how to make what my mother (a Sindhi) and what my father (a Manglorean Christian) taught me. Indian cookbooks opened up whole new worlds, introducing me to a range of ethnic specialities that I had rarely eaten and never made myself. I've gone through vegetarian phases (very brief ones!) in my life, and many of these were crucial in that process -- no cuisine does vegetarian quite like Indian does.

Here are the books I consider essential, with a few extras thrown in for good measure.

Monday, July 22, 2013


The New York Times recently wrote about a new taste for sour foods that's emerging in US food culture, driven in part by new cuisines that have caught peoples' attention, a sense that sourness is a component of good health, and a backlash at "mainstream" or "suburban" American food tastes that err on the side of sweet.

The food of my mother's community, the Sindhis, is particularly tilted towards the sour (katta) side of the taste spectrum (as well as a good dose of bitter, which seems quite out of sync with the American palate). This morning, when she opened the container of plain yogurt in the fridge and complained that it was way too tart, she decided to make a kadhi (curry in the Anglicized spelling) that is familiar in India as a way to use up homemade curds (dahi) that have soured. (Indian families always have yogurt in the fridge, and eat it with almost every meal as a cooling and refreshing counterpoint to the spiciness and heaviness of the rest of the food.) The kadhi is thickened with besan (chickpea flour) to add protein.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I just cut into a ripe cantaloupe, and was near bowled over by the fragrance -- floral and sweet. It smelled of heat and promised coolness, and it slaked my thirst when I bit into it. A thoroughly successful melon experience.

I put it into the fridge so it would be cold for later, and had to move two jars of strawberry preserves to make room. I call them "preserves" but of course they're more like a runny sauce because I seem incapable of just following a damned recipe when I decide to make jam. Last summer's attempt with blueberries yielded something that solidified to a spackle-like consistency; with this summer's strawberries I erred in the other direction. Not too sweet, happily, with some lemon to make it less cloying.