03/14/17 5:24pm

Let me be blunt for a moment. All those delicious Pi Day pies and snow day stews aside, this is the worst time of year for cooking. Late winter and early spring are a challenge in in the kitchen. The chicken pot pies, roasted vegetables and bean soups I was so excited to make in October feel heavy and boring now, and it’s going to be more than a few weeks before the first spring edibles show up at the farmer’s market.

We’re in luck though, fellow cooks. A new book came out today that will help get us all over the hump and into nettle, asparagus and pea season.

Vibrant India, Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn is the first cookbook from Chitra Agrawal, cook, writer and owner of Brooklyn Delhi. She wrote a great guide to eating all over the subcontinent by taking a day trip to Edison and Iselin, N.J. for us a few years back, and if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at cooking South Asian food, but have never quite been able to make sense of all the spice roasting and grinding, this is the book for you.

Agrawal’s recipes are not the heavy butter chicken and saag paneer type fare–which is generally Northern Indian in origin–that often represents Indian cuisine in the U.S. In the foreword she explains that her cooking is very much informed by the vegetarian cuisine of South India, Bangalore specifically, which is based around rice, beans, pulses, fresh vegetables and spices like mustard seed, hing and tumeric.

What does South India have to do with late winter cooking?

Many of the recipes in Vibrant India are variations on rice and dal, which are not just hearty, durable, winter fare, they’re also fragrantly spiced and lush with coconut, ghee and curry leaves. This combination of new flavors and cooking techniques is sure to hold your attention until the farmer’s market is full of ingredients for her spiced spring vegetable and coconut polenta recipe.

I’ve tried to wrap my head around how to build up a pantry of spices and the techniques for cooking Indian dishes at home several times, never with much luck. There are several South Asian cookbooks on my shelf and I’ve never prepared a single dish from any of them. I get overwhelmed by planning what to make, gathering the ingredients and understanding the techniques. This book feels so much more accessible and easy to understand than my past forays into subcontinental cooking. (more…)

Brooklyn Based delivers free daily emails about the borough's best food, events, attractions and innovators. Get Brooklyn Based in your inbox--sign up here.