COOKBOOK REVIEW: A flavor spectrum without limits

"I Cook in Color" by Asha Gomez and Martha Foose (Running Press, $32.50).

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"I Cook in Color" by Asha Gomez and Martha Foose (Running Press, $32.50).

‘I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors From My Kitchen and Around the World’ by Asha Gomez and Martha Hall Foose (Running Press, $32.50)

Asha Gomez came to the United States from her native Kerala more than 20 years ago as a young teenager. But the dazzling sights, smells and flavors of the sunny state along the Malabar Coast have never left her. The Atlanta entrepreneur and chef won national accolades for fusing aspects of her southern Indian heritage with those of her adopted American South as chef/owner of Cardamom Hill and Spice to Table, and a James Beard award nomination for her 2016 cookbook, “My Two Souths.”

Closing those restaurants freed her to dabble in a wide range of culinary interests — “sometimes fleeting or long-held” — in creating meals she shares at home with her teenage son, Ethan, and frequent guests.

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“We are all guided by a world of influences that sway our tastes from one day to the next,” she writes in the introduction to “I Cook in Color: Bright Flavors From My Kitchen and Around the World” written with Martha Hall Foose (Running Press, $32.50). These recipes — in lively chapters such as Colorful Drinks to Sip and Savor, Bright Salads, and Beef and Venison Dishes From Around the World — paint a more nuanced portrait of a well-traveled life that’s constantly evolving.

Dry-Fry Pork Mince with Green Beans takes her back to her Chinese takeout days at Queens College in New York. Chicken and Andouille Sausage Perloo reflects the Gullah traditions she studied on visits to the South Carolina coast. I’ve made wonderfully satisfying meals of both, as well as one that included both her pomegranate seed-speckled Dill and Red-Onion Rice cooked in coconut milk, and Pigs and Apples, a 20-minute pork chop dish.

ExploreAtlanta chef - and Kerala native - Asha Gomez fishes for home

Her deep connections to her roots appear in ways subtle and bold — be it the “Asha treatment” she gives a simple slab of wild salmon with a drizzle of mustard seed-spiked olive oil, or a rose-scented pound cake topped with saffron-poached quince honoring the baking prowess of her mother.

The common thread that ties this eclectic recipe collection together is the spirit of a chef who can find the bright spot on the gloomiest day by turning on her stove.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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