The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

April 24, 2009

Book review: ‘Top Chef’ host offers sumptuous cookbook

‘Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet’

By Padma Lakshmi

If you’re a fan of the Bravo series “Top Chef,” then you’re familiar with its host, Padma Lakshmi. I must admit that, although I enjoy most things culinary, I rarely watch that particular show, as I have little tolerance for Lakshmi. Her presence among the knowledgeable chefs and food critics is jarring, and I tend to regard her as lovely but bland window-dressing in a low-cut dress and high-heel boots. (And don’t even get me started on her recent Hardee’s commercial. You know which one I’m talking about.)

Prior to “Top Chef,” I’d only known of Lakshmi as the model/actress ex-wife of writer Salman Rushdie, not as a foodie. So it was with some skepticism that I picked up her new cookbook, entitled “Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet.”

Much to my surprise, I actually liked it. The book is undeniably gorgeous and as sumptuous as its title, brimming with recipes and colorful photos rich in shades of red, yellow and green.

Its subtitle — “A World of Recipes for Every Day” — fulfills the book’s promise. Recipes range from the exotic — lobster bruschetta, green mango curry, lychee granita — to the familiar — grilled cheese toastie with portobello and bacon, creamy broccoli soup, krispy fried chicken. As I scanned the table of contents, the more playfully named recipes enticed me to look them up just to see what they entailed: two hens laughing, green dragon curry with shrimp, fiddlehead ferns in glassy onions.

Some of the more complex recipes are not what I’d deem “for every day,” unless you happen to have a few hours to prepare them. But the majority seem easy enough to prepare after a long day spent at work or chasing the kiddies around the house. Ingredient lists aren’t too long, nor are they too unusual. If an item is very specialized, Lakshmi helpfully suggests a more common substitute.

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