Big Flavours, Beautiful Food
While I was getting my hair cut recently, I was discussing food with my stylist Peter, as we often do. This time we were talking about the Asian inspired gelato flavours at Kekou downtown. When Peter said “we have some soph-is-ticated palates here”, I totally agreed. I 100% appreciate living in a place with so many different foods and flavours. And I thought of my new cookbook Season, and its author Nik Sharma, a blogger and photographer born and raised in India and now living in San Francisco.
Season is a gorgeous new cookbook with North American-style recipes bursting with Indian flavours. This book has been widely acclaimed for its photography and approachable recipes, as is Sharma’s blog “A Brown Table” and his column “A Brown Kitchen”. Sharma’s approach to fusion comes through with recipes like Caprese Salad with Sweet Tamarind Dressing, Margherita Naan Pizza, Roasted Young Carrots with Sesame, Chili and Nori, Spiced Meat Loaf and Apple Masala Chai Cake.
I made the Hot Green Chutney Roasted Chicken, which was simple enough. The chutney is slathered under the skin of a whole chicken, marinated overnight and roasted. The chutney, made of arugula, baby kale, onion, garlic, lime and lots of spices was my favourite, not bitter or too spicy. I served the chicken with roasted Fingerlings with Crispy Sage and Garlicky Kefir Crème Fraiche, which was a slam dunk, no surprise. I also made the Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds, Black Mustard Seeds and Coconut Oil, which was also very good – not too different from the way I usually make them but with a little extra crunch and flavour.
Less successful were my Rainbow Root Raita and Cocoa-Spiced Bean and Lentil Soup, probably because I didn’t follow the recipes closely enough. The book describes various spices and blends, and I was sure that I would be able to find them, but I couldn’t and didn’t wait for Amazon or head down to Gerrard St. East. I substituted kaffir lime leaves for the curry leaves in the Raita and discovered that I don’t like them, and I also messed up the proportions. I couldn’t find Kashmiri chile for the soup and I didn’t have mace either, so I substituted other spices and may possibly have added too much cocoa in the soup. Not all substitutions are good ideas.
I also tried the Upside-Down Orange and Fennel Cornmeal Cake, because the blood oranges in the picture looked so pretty. Definitely for adult palates because of the fennel and the bitterness of the orange rind, but I liked it – I guess I am sophisticated.
We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world and we should celebrate that. I like Nik Sharma’s story and his food. And the pictures, all with black backgrounds, really are beautiful. Not everything worked but it’s a risk worth taking. Worth checking out.