Mainers have a well-known aversion to spice. The Yankee palate leans heavily toward sweet and savory, rather than bold and fiery. Hot sauce, for example, is a staple condiment in greasy spoons across the U.S., but is conspicuously absent on the tables of similar joints in New England.

It is no surprise then, that growing up in rural western Maine my exposure to “ethnic” food, for lack of a better term, was fairly limited. But that was a long time ago, and my appreciation of dishes from every corner of the globe has grown over the years, as has the variety and availability of those foods in Maine.

1103239_664051 food.flavorwalla1.jpgSo when I saw “Flavorwalla: Big Flavor. Bold Spices. A New Way to Cook the Foods You Love,” by Floyd Cardoz, I was immediately attracted. I wasn’t familiar with Cardoz, a well-known New York City chef, James Beard Award nominee and winner of “Top Chef Masters,” but I liked the bright colors, interesting flavors and variety of dishes it promised.

“Flavorwalla” is a 350-page tome packed with recipes that jump all over the map, from simple rice dishes to whole spatchcocked chickens; soups and stews to cocktail mixes. It’s a lot to take in, and its organization is muddled – for example, a complicated recipe for vanilla bean kulfi with citrus fruit in rose water syrup is followed immediately by “my dog Shadow’s favorite dinner” which is exactly what it sounds like: a recipe for dog food.

In some cases, intriguing recipes are bogged down by the number of ingredients and steps required. I really liked the idea of a masala mary, Cardoz’s take on the classic brunch cocktail, but mixing 26 ingredients with two different pots and a blender was too much work for me, even on a lazy Sunday morning.

Those gripes aside, “Flavorwalla” has a lot to offer. The recipes are inventive, and offer enough variety to appeal to an advanced culinary artist or working parent cooking for a family of four.


As the subtitle implies, spice is a key factor in all of Cardoz’s dishes. Assertive spicing adds twists to traditional favorites like chicken soup with chickpea noodles, or osso buco braised with warming spices. And anyone who buys the book expecting it to lean heavily on themes from Cardoz’s native India won’t be disappointed, with offerings like tomato-potato curry, Sunday morning masala omelet, shrimp curry with cauliflower, and chicken pilaf with coconut milk.

Many of Cardoz’s recipes also lend themselves well to improvisation and substitution. That’s an attractive quality for a cook like me, who sometimes has a hard time following the rules, or more frequently, forgets an ingredient at the store. It is nice to crack open “Flavorwalla” and find templates to build a meal around, instead of directions that require painstaking attention to detail.

Which brings me to my favorite dish from the cookbook, “Beryl’s Sunday Lunch” basmati rice. It’s one of the easiest recipes from Cardoz, but the short ingredient list and simple one-pot preparation belie the elegant coloring and deep flavor of the rice. Like many of his recipes, the rice is drawn from Cardoz’s personal history – when he was young his mother made it so often for Sunday lunch that his memories of those days are “inextricably” linked to the dish.

This rice is perfect as a side dish, or as the base for a curry or stir fry. Or, you can have it my favorite way, topped with a poached egg, soy sauce and Sriracha. — PETER MCGUIRE

"Beryl's Sunday Lunch" basmati rice from Floyd Cardoz's "Flavorwalla."

‘Beryl’s Sunday Lunch’ Basmati Rice

Serves 6


3 tablespoons canola oil

1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick

3 whole cloves

1 cup finally chopped white onion

4 scallions (white and green parts) thinly sliced

2 bay leaves


2 cups white basmati rice, rinsed, soaked and drained

11/2 cups diced tomatoes

2 small or 1 large chicken bullion cube

3 cups boiling water

Kosher salt

Heat the oil in a 4-quart stew pot over medium heat until simmering.


Add the cinnamon stick and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onions and scallions and cook, stirring, until softened (don’t let them color), about three minutes.

Add the bay leaves and drained rice, stirring to coat the rice with the oil. Cook, stirring frequently until the rice starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, four to six minutes.

Add the tomatoes, bouillon cube and water, taste and add salt as necessary. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Gently stir the rice with a silicone spatula a couple of times and cover the pot.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pilaf stand, covered, for 15 minutes.

Fluff the pilaf with a fork. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaves and serve.

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