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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I picked up my copy of "American Masala" last night so this review is a first impressions sort of look at chef Suvir Saran's latest cookbook. First of all, the photography and the graphic elements that make up this book are vividly colorful. As you can see from the cover, the colors are rich and intense - almost a visual foretaste of the equally vivid flavors and unique layering of spices you will experience when you try these recipes. Building on "Indian Home Cooking," this second book provides even more background to the recipes - the stories of people and experiences that have inspired Saran's collection of "125 new classics" are a pure pleasure to read. In fact, when I got home last night, I sat in bed reading Saran's book as I would a novel, getting lost in the textures and rhythms of anecdotes from Delhi, New York and other places around the world.

Today I decided to try Suvir's recipe for vegetarian enchiladas with roasted pepper sauce. As I looked through the recipe to make my shopping list, I discovered that I would be actually making three recipies: the roasted pepper sauce, the stir-fried carrot salad, and the enchiladas themselves. Now enchiladas, like many of the foods you will see in this cookbook, may seem a peculiar offering from one of the leading authorities in this country on Indian cooking. But as the title suggests, this book reflects Saran's own experience in America (where, as he states early on, he has lived almost as long as he had lived in India). Many of these recipes will no doubt seem familiar to you as you thumb through the book, but if you look at the ingredients, you will notice how Suvir subtly recreates them with new flavors and spices.

I have just finished making the roasted pepper sauce (fantastic!), the carrot salad (deeply warm and spicy with a lovely tang of lime) and have assembled the enchiladas. I'll be putting them in the oven in a few minutes and cannot wait to try them.

Get this book, it's a wonderful reflection of a gifted chef.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've got two kids under the age of 9 and it is my goal in life to get them to eat food from every corner of the world. This is not always an easy task. American Masala is brilliant; Suvir Saran has practically written this book with me in mind. It is all the comfort food my family knows and loves, like Macaroni and Cheese and Fried Chicken, but Saran adds the spices and flavors from India that make it unique and exciting. I can introduce my kids to a cuisine I love while satisfying their young need to recognize what they are eating.

When I got the book in the mail I immediately handed it over to my 6 year old and asked him what he would like for dinner. He quickly filled the pages, that look like brightly colored candy, with little sheets of paper to mark his favorites. Last night he chose the meatloaf, aloo bonda potato dumplings and the fig flan. We were all licking our fingers and wanting to dip into the Tamarind glaze that sits on top the meatloaf. It is not the meatloaf my grandma used to make, it is better! And we love hers. Tonight my 8 year old has chosen the enchiladas with roasted pepper sauce, spiced pear chutney and magic bars. Ok I admit this is a crazy menu but if my kids are inspired to eat, I'm thrilled to do it!!!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Having delved into Suvir Saran's earlier book Indian Home Cooking, I've been waiting for months with giddy anticipation to get my hands on his newest work, American Masala - 125 New Classics from My Home Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, $35).

Within a week, I have read it cover to cover, senses awakening again as I gazed at each gorgeous color photograph and checking off seemingly every recipe to try sooner rather than later. Mr. Saran writes with the same
passion and wit that he conveys in person, whether it be teaching a class of eager students or sharing a meal with friends and family.

His stories of growing up in India in the shadow (a.k.a. underfoot) of his family's cook, grandmother, and mother somehow transcend his life and inspires others. He shares his joy of learning from those he loves and inspires us to teach those who may be underfoot in our own kitchens.

In American Masala, he takes American standards and gives them an Indian twist. The book begins with the foundation of Indian cuisine, chutneys, pickled vegetables, a raita, and spice blends, especially the keystone: Garam Masala, but quickly moves to the American melting pot with Spinach Lasagna with Roasted Eggplant Sauce and Veggie Enchiladas with Roasted Pepper Sauce. The ease of his recipes and his encouragement throughout the book make it seem as though anyone can welcome unexpected drop-in guests without panic. As he states, with just the fewest of pantry staples like red onions, red bell peppers, potatoes, and jalapeños; a couple of hearty snacks can be in front of your guests at a moment's notice.

At last, Saran gives us his recipe for Manchurian Chicken. No longer is there the need to search cyber space for this delectable dish nor fly to New York, to eat this flavorful creation again at his soon to be re-opened restaurant, Devi. Now you can make it at home! With just a few simple ingredients, the most exotic being garlic and ketchup, this dish is sure to please. Eggplant Caponata traditionally includes tomatoes, olives and capers, but Saran's Indian version includes jalapeños, ground coriander, toasted cumin, and fresh cilantro.

There's no trace of mayo in his cabbage slaw; instead you'll find fresh ginger, chaat masala, toasted cumin, cayenne pepper, and finely chopped jalapeño peppers. Every salad bar in America seems to have some version of carrot salad, but for his, Saran sautés cumin seeds and ground
peppercorns, adds ground coriander, then stir fries grated carrots and green cabbage, adding a few other ingredients at the end like cilantro and toasted cumin. As he states time and again, the simplest ingredients become sublime with the layering and use of spices: whole, ground, toasted dry, or sautéed in oil.

The Mushroom and Taleggio Turnovers are savory pillows of crimini, rosemary and red pepper flakes with a splash of white wine all surrounded by flaky, buttery goodness. For a quick sauce use the one from the Manchurian Chicken, adding a little water to thin and spoon over these puff pastry delights.

The Garam Masala that you made earlier now delights the Indian-spiced Meatballs with Tomato-Chile Sauce. With garlic and chilies at the center, the spices of the Garam Masala - including ground cloves and cayenne pepper -- are the stars that twinkle with clarity and delight in the meatballs. These delectable gems are bathed in a tomato and red bell pepper sauce, spiked with dried red chilies, fresh rosemary and thyme.

Pistachio-and-Cardamom Pound Cake is an absolutely delicious way to end a meal and can be assembled and baked in no time. As with any butter cake, make it a day ahead so the flavors can meld. If your taste buds can't wait, bake it in the morning, drizzle the Lemon Icing just prior to serving and watch your guests swoon over the flavors of cardamom and toasted ground pistachios. We have now deemed this cake the "orgasm cake"!!

Whether impromptu friends arrive at your doorstep, you have all a day to prepare a feast, or need inspiration to update your favorite recipe for macaroni and cheese, American Masala will become a standard cookbook in your library. Saran's chapter introductions as well as his footnotes for every recipe can be read over and over to inspire and remember why cooking and sharing good food is about comfort and adventure.

A Bientôt! Bret Bannon
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have a copy of this book -- intrigued by the title alone. As I read through the recipes, I noticed that most of them are familiar, but there is a bit of a twist on each. I made the Creamy Cauliflower and Spinach soup as a test recipe for a low fat, low cholesterol addition to a feeding study for my job. Spectacular! This soup hit all the marks -- texture, taste, visual appeal, intense flavor. Chef Saran has taken the familiar and left them familiar, adding the subtle spice that reflects a change that is unmistakably there, but not obnoxious. These recipes are for those who are reticent about trying new things on their palate. It's what you would expect from a mac and cheese or fried chicken, but with a little sump'n-sump'n -- like a Masala.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Title: American Masala
Author: Suvir Saran [...]
ISBN: 978-0-307-34150-1
Published by: Clarkson Potter/ Publisher [...]
Review by: Diana Rohini LaVigne, Indian Life & Style Magazine

When I set my `Scallops With Roasted Peppers' onto the dining room table, I knew Suvir Saran's American Masala cookbook was going to make me the hit of the evening. I was right! With over 125 recipes from the author's home cookbook, it does a wonderful job of blending American cuisine with Indian spices. Although it might appear to be just another `fusion' cookbook, it isn't. It delivers innovative new twists on old classic recipes and doesn't over complicated things with hard-to-find ingredients or hard-to-learn processes.

Instructions are clear, logical and simple to execute. The photos are exceptionally alluring and pull the reader into exploring all the pages of the cookbook. Home chefs everywhere will want not want to try making a few dishes but will want to try all the recipes in this book from entrée to dessert. The index and the resources sections really help make the book easy to navigate.

I won't be able to match the flavor of the cuisine this food guru serves up daily at his New York restaurant, Devi, but I plan to have fun trying. American Masala is the best way to look like you really know what you are doing in the kitchen. Everyone will be impressed with your `Suvir Saran' like cooking abilities. It makes a great gift for even those just starting down the culinary exploration path.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Full disclosure: I don't yet have my own copy of this book in hand, so i can't in good faith go all the way to 5 until I really get to use it. But I just raced to my laptop to order it after meeting Chef Saran at a corporate event and sampling dishes from this collection. I'm visiting a client today and the cafeteria hosted a lunch where the chef was on site; the kitchen was serving up a bunch of his recipes. I flipped through the book, chatted up Chef Saran, looked over the spiced-up menu, and bought myself a pork vindaloo quesadilla with some sides. (After spending a month in India early this year, I admit to raising an eyebrow at the border-bending juxtaposition of vindaloo and quesadillas, but I was intrigued at the chance to sample this level of food, in a cafeteria, from such a warm chef, who helms a Michelin-starred restaurant.)

Lunch was extraordinary. Seriously, authentically, soul-happy delicious. I raced back to the wood-fired oven just as they were closing to snap up another order to take home for my husband's dinner and then back to my desk to order this exciting book from the soft-spoken chef who even offered to email me more recipes. What a fun surprise. Can't wait to try these recipes at home. YUM.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I collect cookbooks. I live in NYC and have eaten at Devi and wanted to eat that amazing lamb dish again and again (Hemant's lamb chops), which is worth buying this book for. But since then i have made some of these dishes, for which i have had "wow" comments. i love reading cookbooks - these are not "interesting" recipes- just have some yum factor. the pepper spread got raves, the telouet omelet, fig flan, brussel sprouts were all "my favorites" the so so were the shrimp curry, the lamb burgers, the lentil Immjadara were good (not great cuz i'm not crazy about lentils it turns out). The quesedillas are to die for and I make them whenever I have a quesedilla craving. Who would have thought a indian cookbook would give me a killer quesedilla recipe? For one cookbook to have so many favorites, i would say this is a great book to have. The recipes seem to be "boring" but wait til you try them. I can't wait to work through all the recipes. I own most of James Beard award winners and this one is the one i keep coming back to over and over again..

try the tamarind and tomato chutneys (ADDICTIVE - my 3 year old dips anything in them) and the potato dumplings..its a grand adventure making these dishes with all the funky spices but its so good!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Amazing book. The recipes are all consistently excellent and do not taste like American Indian cuisine, but real Indian cuisine. The best I have ever seen in this category.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I borrowed the book from the library to check it out. One of the few books that I felt I would go back to periodically. I have decided to purchase the book. Recipes are simple, the ingredients are basically what an Indian would stock at home, seemed to me that the food would taste fresh and simple. I also like the author's writing - the little snippets that he provides with the recipes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
American Masala has enriched the masala of my family in wonderful ways. My sister, Gail, who is a good cook but never takes the time, was given American Masala by my niece. Gail was so inspired by by the photos in the cookbook, that she came early to my house on Easter to prepare the corn bread and the red potatoes. The three of us had a memorable time preparing those dishes - it was the first I had ever seen my niece cook! I was their sous chef and loved every minute of it.
Then, and perhaps best of all, the fussy eaters in the family would not stay out of the potatoes until dinner! Even my mother, who hates richly flavored foods, loved both dishes. My heart sang, as the reason I ever took up a wooden spoon was total boredom with my mother's WASPy efforts in the kitchen.
All this totally reinforces a point I always talk about on my cooking show - that food and the kitchen are where many special family memories are cooked up. Memories that last a lifetime and beyond.
I haved thoroughly enjoyed using American Masala, too!
The recipes are well written and easy to follow. The meatloaf recipe alone is worth the purchase price. It's moist and delicious enough for company. And I've never been one to get excited about meatloaf!
Also loved the Shrimp Poha Paella - it's different, easy and absolutely scrumptious. Even the fussy teenagers in my family loved it.
I've been a caterer for 20 years, but this cookbook is teaching me new things about how to enhance the flavor of food with spices. I have tried eight different recipes so far, and loved them all.
You can't go wrong with this book.
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