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Padma’s new cookbook

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Now that ‘Top Chef’ season is over, viewers with Padma withdrawal can pick up a copy of her just-published second cookbook, ‘Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet.’ (Maybe the title came from the same people who dressed her in halter tops for the cooking show.) The beautifully shot book has plenty of pix of the former model too, along with those of the actual food -- an appealingly international mix of recipes heavy on the Indian spices. We all know Colicchio can cook, but I’ve always been curious about his costar; so I took the book home over the weekend and tried it out.

This recipe -- spiced Cornish game hens stuffed with bread, oranges and kumquats -- sounded most intriguing. Especially as among the catalog of spices going into it was asafetida, an esoteric medieval powder made from gum resin whose name means, literally, ‘stinking resin.’ (We booby-trapped knife kits with it in cooking school.) The dish looked good -- after I cooked it 35 minutes longer than the recipe’s muddled directions called for. (If I had followed directions, it would have been pretty raw.) But the flavors were haphazard and overwhelming, the spices jammed together without any subtlety or coherence. My kids loved a recipe for orange blossom waffles, though, and the hot and sweet grilled tilapia was quite good. The chai tea, however, was surprisingly weak, and a fresh mint chutney was an inarticulate mess of greenery rather than an identifiable condiment.

The book has range and some interesting flavor profiles, but the mechanics don’t work as well as they should. Sure, Padma’s been busy, what with her TV show and her divorce proceedings. But if she didn’t have time to test the recipes, she could have hired professional testers. Or here’s an idea for a Quick Fire Challenge: You have 30 minutes to test my new book’s recipes! Your time begins NOW.

‘Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day,’ by Padma Lakshmi, Weinstein Books, $34.95.

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-- Amy Scattergood


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