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Cook the Book: 'Indian Cooking Unfolded'

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Here at Serious Eats, we're no strangers to Raghavan Iyer encyclopedic approach to Indian cooking. Back in 2009, we covered his last book, 660 Curries, and found it to be a veritable dictionary of curry recipes—at least one for any ingredient you could pick up at the grocery store. This summer, Iyer is back with a book that takes just about the opposite approach to culinary depth. Instead of an endless list of recipe options, Indian Cooking Unfolded digs deep into technique. The result is a book of 100 recipes, each written with such an eye for detail that even a 10-year-old could execute with flair.

And the name is more than just a turn of phrase. Ten recipes at the top of each chapter literally unfold, revealing a multi-page spread of step-by-step color photographs and detailed captions (a wonderful feature for everyone except those with teensy kitchen counters). Looking at these recipes is much like scrolling through a blog, but the instructions have a level of authority and expertise akin to a cooking instructor. Indeed, Iyer is a celebrated cooking teacher himself, and you can hear his voice clearly throughout the steps. Recipes are organized into "lessons" and focus on particular cooking techniques, instead of specific ingredients.

Because of this technical focus, Iyer sticks mostly with familiar staples in the Indian cannon, and he limits the ingredient lists to those easily found in grocery stores across the country. Simple chicken curry, naan, dals, samosas, and saag paneer all make an appearance. However, there are several original dishes, like a braised beet salad we will make later this week, that incorporate Indian flavors into modern American meals. Iyer also includes an "extra credit" box with most recipes to increase the level of difficulty should you want to tackle a bigger project.

If you're familiar with cooking Indian food, much of the book's instruction will be old news. And if you're looking for elaborate dishes, or to expand your ingredient repertoire, you may want to take a look back into 660 curries. For everyone else, however, Indian Cooking Unfolded is a fine introduction to the broad scope of Indian cuisine.

This week, we'll taste a range of Indian dishes, from the aforementioned Chicken Curry and Beet Salad to a Smoky Yellow Split Pea Dal, a summery Corn and Coconut side dish, and a Poppadum appetizer with a choice of piquant dips.

Win 'Indian Cooking Unfolded'

Thanks to our friends at Workman Publishing, we have five (5) copies of Indian Cooking Unfolded to give away this week. All you need to do for a chance to win is to tell us about the Indian dish you'd most like to learn how to cook in the comments section below.

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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