Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health

By Nina Simonds (Knopf, $35)

Recently in these pages I predicted that restaurants of the (hopefully near) future will think not just in terms of flavor but also nutrition, health, and global wellbeing. So I was delighted to find a new cookbook that includes not just 175 recipes but grilling tips from the director of nutritional information at the American Institute for Cancer Research and anti-aging tips from medical botanist Dr. Jim Duke. The author, an Asian correspondent for Gourmet and a contributor to the New York Times Sunday travel section, lives up to her subtitle by adding asides about the healthful properties of tofu and the tonic qualities of mint (it tames muscle spasms and, apparently, dissolves gallstones) to her recipes for spicy penne and minty snap peas. Also included is information about Ayurvedic practices for healthy eating and some of the latest skinny, so to speak, from Dr. Andrew Weil. In addition to this eating-for-life (as opposed to for-the-moment) philosophy, Simonds—or perhaps her editors—are also pushing a lifestyle angle. The recipes and interviews with experts are preceded by chapters discussing staples (Simonds recommends keeping hoisin sauce, toasted sesame oil, oyster sauce, and other ethnic condiments), substitutions, daily routines, and stress-reducing practices for preparing meals. Though Spices contains decent quantities of information, it manages to be lively and entertaining as well. Simonds takes this stuff seriously, but not too seriously, as evidenced by a quote in the opening pages from New Yorker food writer Calvin Trillin: "Health food makes me sick."

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