Cook the Book: '660 Curries' by Raghavan Iyer

20090727-660curriesbook.jpgI have a lot of cookbooks—bookcases of them. While it's great to own a bazillion books, it's not the most practical thing if you are, say, moving somewhere. But in all my moves, the one thing I could never bear to part with was my cookbook collection; these books are my only possessions I feel are truly irreplaceable. Some were gifts or flea market finds, some are guides to cuisines that I developed a short-lived infatuation with and some are books that I reference again and again.

I'm not sure if it has to do with the ease of finding recipes on the web or the fact that I've moved them so many times, but I have curtailed my cookbook-purchasing lately. It's been a while since I've rushed out to buy a cookbook.

It was a few days after an incredible meal of homemade Indian food made from recipes taken from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries at my aunt and uncle's house that I realized that I must have this cookbook. This wasn't a book that I could order from Amazon, I just couldn't wait that long, it was more of a compulsion than mere desire. I needed the book in my hands so I could make some of those wonderful curries for dinner, that night.

Before that dinner I had only had Indian food in restaurants—the usual saag paneer, aloo gobi, or tandoori chicken. I liked it just fine, but it wasn't something I craved on a regular basis. The dishes I had at my aunt and uncle's were something completely different; there was the most amazing complexity of flavors, the vegetables kept their integrity, and there was none of the mush factor that puts some people off of Indian food.

So, I planned my day around purchasing 660 Curries and then gathering all the staple ingredients that go into the recipes. Cookbook and ingredients procured, I went home and made a dinner of curries. And then I did it again. And again and again. Every single recipe I tried turned out to be absolutely fantastic.

This book is virtually inexhaustible. If you can think of an ingredient, Iyer has a curry recipe for it. I've found it especially helpful in finding creative ways to prepare vegetables you might not otherwise associate with Indian cuisine. A curry involving Stewed Beets and Beet Greens might be my new favorite recipe. Caroline Russock

Win 660 Curries

Every day this week we will be sharing a curry recipe from 660 Curries as well as helping demystify and assemble the basic ingredients that are used in Indian home cooking. Even if you normally shy away from Indian food, I encourage you to try some of these recipes. Raghavan Iyer's dishes are worlds away from the all-you-can-eat steam-table buffet you might be familiar with.

Thanks to the generous folks at Workman Publishing, we are giving away five (5) copies of 660 Curries this week. All you have to do is tell us about your first encounter with Indian cuisine 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, August 3 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.