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August 2002 Issue
The Spice is Right
by Ronda L. Halpin
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About the Author
    Monica Bhide, author of The Spice is Right: Easy Indian Cooking for Today, was born in India and moved to the United States in 1991. This is her first cookbook and it reflects her desires for simple, healthy meals that are inspired by the Indian cooking that she grew up with while blending elements from her new home in the United States. She is an established home chef and successful caterer. She currently resides in the Washington, DC area with her husband, Sameer, and young son, Jai.

About the Cookbook

    The Spice is Right: Easy Indian Cooking for Today is a perfect cookbook for home cooks that want to introduce elements of Indian cooking and cuisine into their established American fare. If you are looking for a cookbook that will recreate the traditional Indian dishes offered at an authentic Indian restaurant, you find that here. Instead, dishes like hummus and tandoori chicken get a treatment that makes them simple to make in a modern Western kitchen. In addition, traditional Western dishes like chex mix and coleslaw get Indian makeovers that are sure to become welcomed additions to your menus.

    Presented as a versatile softcover book, The Spice is Right offers a simple format that is easy to use. It begins with an introduction to the author's cooking philosophy and inspiration for the book, she offers a look at Indian cooking, spices, techniques and even some basic recipes. After that, the chapters are arranged according to complete menus -- a welcomed treat to those unfamiliar with planning Indian-inspired meals. The beginning of each chapter includes a brief description of the meal's theme (e.g. "a picnic basket" or "turkey day")and a list of the recipes arranged according to beverages, appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts and -- a personal favorite -- meals that take advantage of any leftovers that you might have when the meal's done. Of course, the author adds a little levity to it all by choosing designations like "Bottoms Up" for appetizers and "Live a Little" for desserts!

    The recipes in each chapter serve the same number of people, which ranges from two to six, so that you don't need to do any extra math when preparing a full menu. The margins of each recipe page include interesting background, hints and tips, and suggestions about how to make cooking easier and fun. Each recipe includes nutritional information, an indication of how hot or spicy the dish is, and variations that can be used if certain ingredients are not available or if you're in the mood for a change of pace.

    Here is a list of the recipe chapters in the Table of Contents to give you some ideas about the type of themes included in The Spice is Right:

    • Seafood Sunday
    • Let's Try Indian
    • An Indian Super Bowl Party
    • Happy Birthday to You
    • The Boss is Coming
    • Hearty Sunday Brunch
    • A Picnic Basket
    • Delhi Fare for Four
    • An Intimate Dinner for Two (South Indian)
    • Turkey Day
    • Backyard Grilling
    • No-Meat Fridays
    • Some Like it Hot
    • Our Daily Bread
    • The Chelsea Platter

    After the recipe chapters, some sources for Indian ingredients on the Internet, through mail order and even some local Indian groceries in the United States are listed.

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