Popular author Ruta Kahate, whose cookbook “Quick-Fix Indian” was published in May 2012, has been doing book signings and classes in the San Francisco Bay Area recently and has a few more coming up. For more details see her Facebook events page.
- Cooking Class at Cavallo Point, Sausalito – Saturday July 14 at 1 p.m.
- Cooking Demo at Purcell Murray, Brisbane – Thursday July 19 at 11 a.m.
- Book Signing at The Pasta Shop, Oakland – Friday, July 20 at 4 p.m.
The subtitle of “Quick-Fix Indian” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $16.99) is “easy, exotic dishes in 30 minutes or less.” In the past, the author and chef spent lots of time preparing dishes, including ones that she taught others how to make when she ran a cooking school in Oakland. Then, Kahate became a mother and she had a lot less time, but she still wanted to cook—especially for her new family (she has two daughters). “I discovered smart shortcuts, convenient tehniques, and quick-cooking ingredients that didn’t compromise on taste of nutrition,” writes Kahate in her newest book’s introduction. Kahate is also the author of “5 Spices, 50 dishes” (Chronicle Books, 2007).
“Quick-Fix Indian” features more than 100 recipes, plus a Quick-Fix Indian Pantry and Shortcut Shelf full of tips. The book instructs Indian cooking novices how to prepare selections such as Chickpea Salad with Pomegranate, Green Pan-roasted Chicken, Mushroom Chile Fry, and Indian Tater Tots. You’ll also learn interesting facts such as the natural benefits of traditional spices (did you know about turmeric’s ability to increase brain function?).
Kahate currently divides her time between the San Francisco Bay Area and India. She is opening a restaurant in Goa, India, in November 2012. I recently had the chance to speak with the chef and author about her cooking, her culinary philosophy, and her influences; some highlights are below. For more on this very interesting and talented woman, view her web site.
Q. How does your time in the Bay Area affect you as a chef and/or cookbook author?
A. The sheer variety of fun ingredients available here as well as the different types of world cuisine represented in the Bay Area are highly inspiring and so much fun! Truly, I have always cooked and eaten like this myself – when I was growing up in India we moved around the whole country because of my father’s job – and our table always had a nice variety of regional dishes on it.
When I moved to the Bay Area over 20 years ago, I promptly incorporated local influences in my cooking style. Actually, I rarely make an all-Indian meal unless it’s for a particular feast. Mostly, I’m mixing and matching all the time. This is why I feel people should be incorporating Indian in their weekly menus.
To do this successfully I think people need to first unburden themselves from the notion that they have to serve Indian dishes only with other Indian dishes. You really don’t need to. A good place to start the experiment will be to add one dish to your otherwise regular meal, for example substitute the Curry Leaf Green Beans (for your usual steamed ones) and serve with your Sunday Roast Chicken dinner. Or start with the Red Braised Chicken and add your usual sides of mashed potatoes and salad, etc.
Q. What are one or two of your favorite recipes in “Quick-Fix Indian,” and why?
A. Wow, that’s a hard one. I very rarely fixate on one or two recipes. But recipes like Shortcut Shrimp and Okra Curry, Stir-fried Beef with Peppers, and Chicken and Cilantro Lime Soup are great to get people cooking Indian. They’re delicious, authentic in their Indian flavors and super easy to make!
Q. Do you have any advice for parents who want to cook healthy for their kids?
A. Use fresh ingredients, always. I don’t do processed food, period. And introduce variety in your kids’ diets. Insist they taste everything. Getting your kids to eat all kinds of interesting, and FRESH food is the best thing you could ever do for them. Being adventurous in their eating habits, I believe, opens little kids’ minds to the world in all other ways too. And of course, include lots and lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, no matter what else they’re eating.
Fixing vegetables in the Indian way really gets kids eating! It’s really a no-brainer – if the food tastes good, folks will eat it. It’s a nonsensical notion that kids are afraid of “flavor” or that they demand “plain” food. I believe it’s actually the other way around – I think parents approach mealtime with fear instead of with a sense of adventure, and this transfers to their children.
Why offer Jimmy plain macaroni with a pat of butter, instead of ladling on the sauce that the parents are eating themselves? In my home, there is simply no “plain” food available! The only concession I make towards children at the table is cutting down on the heat – not the flavor – in a meal.
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