Inspired by her mom’s home-cooking, writer Priya Krishna offers recipes in her colorful new cookbook “Indian-ish,” out this week, which anyone can make — even if you have no idea what fenugreek is. An expert in making recipes easy, she debunks common misconceptions about everyday Indian food.
amNewYork spoke with the NYC-based food writer.
Why did you want to write this cookbook?
The book wasn’t actually my idea initially. Sure, everyone thinks their parents are great cooks, but it was actually a cookbook editor who first approached me with the idea. She had fallen in love with my mom’s recipes and her back story. Here she was this working mother of two, creating recipes inspired by her American setting and Indian heritage.
Did your mom train as a cook?
My mom is trained as a software programmer, who currently works for Intuit. She immigrated to the U.S. with my dad in the ’80s and learned to cook here and was heavily influenced by her surroundings. When we were kids, she traveled a ton for work, but she never compromised on cooking really thoughtful meals for us. She was one of those women doing it all, before doing it all was even a thing.
Are the recipes in the book strictly Indian?
Definitely not — that’s the whole point. There’s feta in the saag paneer, and we make pizza with roti. This is how we actually cooked in my house. It’s very representative of my mother’s experience in America. One big difference here is my mom cooks with olive oil instead of ghee a lot of the time because she likes the fruity taste of olive oil.
Can anyone make these recipes?
They’re built to be accessible. They’re recipes created by a working woman who was getting home at 6 to put dinner on the table by 6:30. It’s not the kind of the food that will have you in the kitchen all day. I wanted to dispel the myth that all Indian food is overly complicated or difficult to make. This is everyday weeknight cooking because that is what it is for us.
What are your favorite places to shop for ingredients?
I like going to Kalustyan’s in Murray Hill and Patel Brothers in Queens for fun when I have time, but the ingredients in these recipes can be found at your everyday supermarket or on Amazon. If you do want to go to a specialty shop though, they’re really well-organized and helpful. These recipes are as simple and straightforward as it gets, so the ingredients are easy to find.
Pizza with a roti crust is just one example of the hybrid twists on Indian food in “Indian-ish.” And it’s perfect for busy New Yorkers, Krishna says. "Probably the one that gets made the most is roti pizza," the author says. "I love the way that roti crisps and curls and chars the same way pizza does."
Here’s a Spanish-Italian spin topped with potatoes, rosemary and Parmesan.
Potato-rosemary roti pizza
- Four 7-inch rotis or whole wheat tortillas
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 medium russet potato, sliced into paper-thin rounds (a mandoline works best for this)
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Score each roti with a knife or fork. Place them on a perforated pizza pan or broiler pan. Drizzle olive oil on each roti (enough to coat the roti but not soak it) and smooth the oil over the surface with your fingers. Bake for 4 to 6 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, but keep the oven on. Once more, drizzle each baked roti with a little olive oil (again, enough to coat but not soak the roti) and smooth it over the surface with your fingers.
3. Layer rotis with potato slices over the rotis, and top with another small drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 5 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and fully cooked.
4. Remove from the oven and distribute the cheese evenly over the rotis and then bake for another 5 minutes, until the cheese has crisped up at the edges. Remove the pizzas from the oven, sprinkle with the rosemary and drizzle a little more olive oil on top.
5. Cut into quarters.
Excerpted from "Indian-ish" © 2019 by Priya Krishna with Ritu Krishna. Photography © 2019 by Mackenzie Kelley. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
IF YOU GO
Priya Krishna is in conversation with Matt Rodbard on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Books Are Magic | 225 Smith St., Cobble Hill | FREE