Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors
Indian cooks are said to be artists, painting with spices and herbs. Rinku Bhattacharya’s cookbook Spices & Seasons illustrates this notion beautifully. Although a seasoned Indian cook, she now uses her skill in her New York kitchen, and her recipes are strongly influenced by Western cuisines, yet based on traditional Indian cooking. You find such recipes as Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Winter Squash Pizza; Pasta with Spice-Infused Ground Lamb and Green Peas, yet all flavored with Indian spices and herbs. This hardcover book is well illustrated with many mostly full page color photos (taken by the author). Collecting and writing the recipes and photographing the result were obviously a long, time-consuming project. The result is excellent. Unless you insist on traditional Indian cooking, this is a nice combination of traditional and Western trendy.
Bhattacharya divides her cookbook into four parts according to the four seasons, each season introduced by a short essay on what this season means to her, to us, to our cooking and meal planning. She divides her recipes according to the courses of the meal, starting with Appetizers and Small Plates through Soups and Lentils to Sweet Endings.
Recipe writing (and her writing in general) is excellent, each recipe nicely laid out on a single page, and is easy to follow. They are mostly not difficult but are not written for the beginner cook (partly because of the discouragingly long list of ingredients). Head notes are nice and worthwhile to read. Times given for preparation and cooking are reasonable for the average cook. Most recipes end with useful Tips and Tricks. In addition the book has many scattered Green Tips, plus a few page interludes, such as Working with Herbs in the Indian Kitchen or Spicing Indian Condiments. Bhattacharya likes long names for her recipes (influenced by Western chefs) such as Pan-Roasted Rutabaga and Brussels Sprouts. For each recipe, she designates one or more clearly-marked categories: Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Fish and Seafood, and Meat and Poultry. This is a useful guide for cooks needing specific recipe in one or more of these categories.
The last chapter provides eight spice blends and a few other useful common Indian sauces. Having an Asian store available, you can find most ingredients. Index is good, divided into three types, Gluten-Free, Vegan/Vegetarian, and Recipe Index. If you like to cook with Indian spices and herbs, you cannot find a better Indian cookbook.