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[Photograph: Lucy Schaeffer]

My only experience eating poppadums has been in Indian restaurants, with a couple of chutneys served alongside. The crackers have always seemed ethereally light and magically crisp. I never would have thought to serve them at home, and knew nothing about preparing them. This dead-simple appetizer recipe from Raghavan Iyer's new cookbook, Indian Cooking Unfolded, takes away that mystique and serves the crackers with an Indian twist on a couple of dips.

As it turns out, poppadums are sold at many Indian and Asian markets in their dried, uncooked state. All you need to do to prepare them is toast them over a gas burner (like a tortilla) or stick them under a broiler for a minute or two. Voila! Crisp, smokey crackers in a matter of minutes.

Why I picked this recipe: I knew I needed to try my hand at preparing poppadums at home. And with the option to serve them with what I'll just call Indian guacamole—I was sold.

What worked: While the poppadums were a welcome new treat and the chile-onion dip was well-seasoned and enjoyed, the real winner here is the avocado pomegranate dip. Between the freshly toasted and ground spices, serrano chiles, and pomegranate seeds, this twist on guacamole will not be easily forgotten.

What didn't: The poppadum toasting took a little practice to become graceful, but after a few crackers, I felt like a pro.

Suggested tweaks: Iyer suggests adding mango to the chile-onion dip if they're in season. I'd also recommend peaches (or any stone fruit) or pineapple. If you can't find poppadums, you can still serve these dips with tortilla chips, potato chips, or other thin crackers. If you're feeling especially adventurous, you can also try making them from scratch.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Indian Cooking Unfolded to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and Berkeleyside NOSH, and she blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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