Books for cooks - And an almost vegetarian recipe!

For the next two weeks, we will look at all sorts of amazing, brand new, hot-off-the-shelves food books.

There will be an Indian cookbook and a vegetarian cookbook written by two English chefs. There will be two New York-based books, a cookbook based in East Harlem and a food book by a Frenchwoman transplanted to New York where all is not, well, let's just say kosher. And we’ll look at a book which will teach you to think like a chef (perfect for farmer’s market shopping) and a book on food from New Orleans and . . . well, much more.

And, along the way, I’ll include all sorts of tempting recipes. Such as vegetarian recipe for red beans and rice. And a vegetarian recipe for pan-roasted mushrooms. And a vegetarian recipe the pilgrims enjoyed. And so much more!

So let’s start with a book loaded with simple recipes that deliver big taste. A book designed for the novice cook. And a recipe so you can see how easy it is.

Six Spices: A Simple Concept of Indian Cooking, by Neeta Saluja (Jones Books)
No, Six Spices is not a vegetarian cookbook. But with India having such a strong streak of vegetarianism, you can bet there would be a good selection of vegetarian recipes. And you would be right.

The goal of this book is to simplify Indian cooking. To do this, the author selects six key spices and uses these to develop very straightforward, flavorful recipes such as carrots and peas curry, savory pancakes, and saffron rice. Even better, however, the author offers all sorts of handy tips and techniques, from working with curry leaves to preparing ghee, making this a nice introduction to Indian food.

Now, I do have a recipe from the book, below, for you to try. But before I get to the recipe, I want to the mention the photographs. I’m certainly glad the book has them; I much prefer cookbooks with color photographs for the inspiration and clarity they deliver. But these photographs all look like they came from a 1960s issue of Good Housekeeping magazine; they all have that too-bright, too-styled, yellow-tinged aura which, to me, bespeaks of aged visuals. I happen to like old cookbooks and food magazines, so, to me, these have a certain charm. But they won’t for you if you prefer the stark Donna Hay style of food photography.
Indian almost vegetarian recipe: Potatoes with Cumin Seeds
3 tablespoons ghee
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon asafetida
1 16-ounce package frozen Souther-style hash browns or 4 large potatoes, boiled, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3/4 teaspoon cumin powder

Heat ghee in a heavy, medium-size frying pan. When hot, add cumin seeds to ghee and fry for 10 seconds.

Remove pan from heat. Stir in red chili powder and asafetida.

Add hash browns or potatoes and salt. Stir the mixture until hash browns or potatoes are coated with spices.

Cover pan and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until potatoes are golden brown.

Sprinkle with cumin powder.

Serve hot or at room temperature as a side dish.