Serious Eats

Cook the Book: 'Modern Spice'

20090608modernspice.jpgMost home cooks would think nothing of whipping up an Asian-inspired stir fry, some tacos, or a bowl of linguine with pesto for a quick weeknight dinner. Although these dishes are not American in origin, they have worked their way into our culinary vernacular over the years.

While Indian food is not exactly exotic, it has not really been widely adapted into most American home kitchens. I have a feeling that most of us are not familiar with the techniques, or stocked with the ingredients to make a batch of saag paneer and some chapati for dinner. But why not?

In the introduction to Modern Spice, Mark Bittman speculates that inaccessibility of ingredients is the primary reason why most Americans have shied away from cooking Indian food at home in the past. Thankfully, in recent years Indian ingredients have come to grace the shelves of most larger supermarkets all over the country. Bittman credits the increase of Indian products to Monica Bhide, author of the much anticipated Modern Spice.

Born in New Delhi, and trained as an engineer, Bhide has written three cookbooks covering the basics of Indian cooking, including The Everything Indian Cookbook, and The Spice is Right. She might not be as well-known as Madhur Jaffrey but there isn't a food-related publication out there that she hasn't written for.

Bhide is pioneering a new kind of Indian cuisine, taking traditional ingredients and techniques and translating them into the modern kitchen. In her introduction to Modern Spice she says, "We love tradition, but embody change. We respect technique, but are playful. Our style is refined; our tastes are global."

We are going to be easing you into the world of Indian cooking by sharing Bhide's modern Indian dishes with you every day this week. We'll start off with a delicious cocktail, a guava bellini, and continue on with some Indian-influenced American classics such as the Indian Burger, curried egg salad with caramelized onions, and Indian chicken wings. Caroline Russock

Win 'Modern Spice'

Thanks to the good folks at Simon and Schuster, we are giving away five (5) copies of Modern Spice this week. All you have to do is tell us what kind of cuisine you would like to learn how to cook at home in the comments section below.

Five (5) people will be chosen at random among the eligible comments below. We're sorry, but entry is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Comments will close Monday, June 15 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.

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