We went to Huntington Beach last weekend, Paddington's second trip to the ocean, and this time he LOVED it (more than the last time we took him). He got to play with the other dogs at the beach and get as muddy as possible in the sand. Yup, he made us and the car sandy and wet; it was worth it. I find myself enjoying Paddington exploring all these new sights and sounds of the world that I take for granted; his innocence and sheer excitement are sweet, and his approach is often amusing, like when the ocean's waves touched him for the first time, and he freaked out and ran towards us.
I've got a "no-recipe recipe" for you, a term that I find gimmicky, yet I am using it here. What does it even mean? IMO - a recipe with or without ingredients or instructions is still a recipe. My recipe is for baked beans on toast; I know it sounds ridiculous; you don't need any specific measurements, just watch the Reel below and see what I mean. I grew up on Heinz baked beans and loved to load them on crispy warm buttered (olive oil will work too, as I did in this recipe). There's a good sprinkling of chaat masala, a minced shallot, and fresh cilantro. IMO this is The G.O.A.T of all toasts and is good for breakfast, a snack, and a lovely partner to a big bowl of hot tomato soup.
For those unfamiliar with chaat masala, it's a fragrant spice blend from a bunch of spices and uses Indian black salt, aka kala namak, and forms the backbone of flavor for a specific family of street food in India called chaat. (I've got recipes for this spice blend in my cookbooks, The Flavor Equation and Season)
This is a special newsletter and a slightly lengthy one, so I apologize in advance. First up, a special shout-out to my favorite South Asian Women Cookbook Authors in honor of National Women's History Month, followed by a shortlist of my favorite cookbooks of Spring. Let's kick this off!
March is National Women’s History Month in America. I wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to some of my favorite women cookbook authors from the South Asian diaspora in our country. Some of these women have taught me to be a better cook, others have given me a better appreciation of what it is to be an Indian cook and food writer in the West, and some have helped me develop confidence in my accepting my own identity through their shared stories and struggles.
This is not an exhaustive list, but a shortlist of the American South Asian Women Cookbook authors whose work I admire and whose cookbooks I turn to often. I haven’t listed all their cookbooks below, but the ones I did list are an excellent place to start and for you to get to know these amazing women, their stories, and their work.
Julie Sahni brings in the technical aspects of Indian cooking and teaches you why things work and won't.
Madhur Jaffrey is an excellent teacher whose books will take you on a journey through India. She is a masterful storyteller.
This is one of the few cookbooks that is deeply personal to me; it speaks of the Bombay I grew up and knew, the city, and the home that I left to make my own path in life.
Atlanta-based chef (and my mother-in-law loves to scroll through her food just for the food) was one of the early cookbooks that redefined what Indian immigrant cooking means and what it is to straddle and define your identity in two different parts of the world, all the while trying to thread it together.
Chitra's book is essential for anyone wanting to learn South Indian cooking - dosa, sambar, and more. She is also the owner of Brooklyn, Delhi, my favorite aachar company.
Every time I see a regional Indian cookbook published, it makes my heart swell with pride, and then came along Food Network Star Chef Maneet Chauhan's book Chaat. It made my heart swell with pride. This book is solely devoted to a particular type of vegetarian Indian street food known as chaat that I am particularly fond of and can never get enough of for its sweet, sour, and salty flavors and textures.
I don't think Padma Lakshmi needs an introduction; she's one of the most well-known food celebrities. The host of Bravo's Top Chef and Hulu's Taste The Nation has written numerous cookbooks for both adults and kids (Tomatoes for Neela). Her Instagram feed is fun and inspiring, and I enjoy watching her cooking videos because there's always something to learn.
Priya and her mother, Ritu Krishna, co-wrote Indian-ish, and it's been one of the most successful Indian cookbooks that I can think of that flips the script on how we think about Indian food. Priya is also a reporter for The New York Times, and besides sharing her food, she also writes about food, restaurants, and culture.
If there's one pastry chef who does a marvelous job of bringing South Asian spices into the world of desserts, it's Sam. This is a book I still give as a gift to people who love to bake and recommend who want to step up their baking.
This year's Spring cookbook collection is marvelous, and there are lots of exciting debut cookbooks and familiar names that return. There are common themes of love, identity, culture, and technique that dominate the spectrum of books this season, and I for one felt grateful to see them published. Here are some of my favorites that I can't wait to cook from in my kitchen (once I get it back next month).
This is Chef Asma Khan’s second cookbook and a spectacular follow-up to Darjeeling Express. Ammu is an ode to Asma Khan’s mother and her life in Calcutta (now called Kolkata) and woven through rich stories that not only teach us about cooking but also about life. The recipes in the book reminded me of home cooking in India, unfussy yet serving to nourish the mind and the senses.
The Cook You Want to Be/Andy Baraghani
Andy Baraghani's debut cookbook is nothing short of elegant. The recipes are easy to execute, and the results sophisticated. You'll feel like you're in a fancy restaurant in your home. Andy's Persian heritage shines throughout the recipes in his cookbook.
Korean American/Eric Kim
In the first cookbook from the NYT columnist, Eric Kim and in it, Eric eloquently explores the question of what being Korean American means to him. But more importantly, this is a book about love. His relationship with his mother, Jean, and her influence on his cooking and life and his first-generation experiences weave together beautifully in this book.
The Wok/Kenji López-Alt
This is a book devoted to technique and is meant for the wok enthusiast and anyone looking to step up their game or become more confident with their wok. The numerous "How To" sections in the book are my favorites, and there are scores of valuable tips making this an essential read.
Mi Cocina/Rick Martínez
Mi Cocina is a gorgeous cookbook full of spirit and love. Through this love letter, Rick Martínez shows us his México, the food, and the people. The flavors are outstanding, and this is a book for people that love spices and bold tastes.
Arabiyya by Reem Assil
Full disclosure, when I lived in Oakland, I'd make a once-a-week stop at Reem's bakery. I've been eagerly awaiting the day she'd put a book together so I could make her food now that I don't live close by. This is a cookbook about food, culture, social justice, and politics of the Arab diaspora told through the lens of Chef Reem Assil. Reem presents the food from her Palestinian and Syrian roots, and the recipes are heart-warming and full of soul.
Until next time,
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