World Cuisine

pomegranaterosesI’ve always been a summer kind of girl but I’ve got soft spot for winter holidays especially the festivities of the winter equinox. In Persian culture, on the first night of winter (which is also the longest night of winter), everyone stays up late to gather around one another, eat great food, and share poetry and stories. We call this evening Shab-e Yalda.

So while I don’t quite have the fire pit to gather my friends around, I do have my beloved coffee table (it can hold just the right amount of coffee table books than a true book collector can dream of) and every winter, I purchase a delicious cookbook to make new dishes and a new storybook for friends to discover when they come over.

For this year, I’m displaying two of the most beautiful books I have ever come across: the cookbook Pomegranates and Roses: My Persian Family Recipes and the illustrated book Shahnameh: The Epic of the Persian Kings which is a new illustrated version of Ferdowsi’s beloved tale. So whether it’s to celebrate Shab-e Yalda or any of this season’s holidays, both of these incredible books make fantastic gifts. They are visually striking, lavish in detail, and truly memorable.

So eat, read, and repeat all winter long…between the decadent recipes in Pomegranates and Roses and the 500 plus pages of illustrated beauty in Shahnameh…there’s plenty to get cozy and happy about over this holiday season.

SaffronTalesCoverMany Iranians will tell you that breakfast is their favorite meal of the day. No matter how early people have to get up—Iran is a nation of pre-dawn risers—taking time to enjoy the first meal of the day is considered essential.

The delight of a Persian breakfast lies in the variety of different flavors you can put together for each bite. Breakfast will always include toasted flatbread, salty feta, and creamy butter, washed down with small glasses of sweet black tea. There may be homemade jams from local fruit such as quinces, figs, blackberries, and sour cherries, as well as honey, fresh dates, tahini, and perhaps, if you are in luck, a slab of thick, wobbly whipped heavy cream or crème fraiche.

Walnuts and almonds, soaked in water overnight to make them easier to digest, are offered in little bowls alongside platters of fresh herbs and thin slices of tomato and cucumber for those who prefer a savory start to the day. Eggs are boiled, fried, or whisked into an omelette for those who want something more substantial. As ever in Iran, a bowl of seasonal fruit will always be nearby to end the meal.

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FundidoJust in time for Cinco de Mayo, these recipes - one each for the meat lover, seafood lover and vegetarian - were created by Chef Eduardo Garcia, co-founder of Montana Mex seasoning salts, which are used in each recipe (and available online). What's better than melted cheese mixed with mexican spices?


Lamb And Mint Fundido
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 lb of ground lamb
6 Tablespoons of chopped fresh mint
2 Tablespoons minced fresh garlic
6 Tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme, woody stems removed
3 teaspoons Montana Mex Picante Salt
4 oz Oaxaca Cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Method:
Pre-heat oven on Low Broil

1. Large saute pan, on medium heat, add olive oil and lamb, saute and break as you would ground beef for tacos, about 4 minutes.

2. Add thyme, garlic, Montana Mex picante salt and saute until garlic is cooked, about 2 minutes.

3. Turn off heat, add all the mint and stir to combine well.

4. In a shallow oven-proof dish/casserole dish, spread meat mixture evenly on the bottom, and cover with all the grated Oaxaca Cheese.

5. Broil on Low in the oven until cheese is melted and golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Serve warm with warm corn tortillas/favorite tortilla chips.

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texmexcookbookPlease join us for a mucho dog-gone fantastico Tex-Mex BBQ Fiesta! Bill and I are having a party. So far, so good. But, how can I guarantee a dog-gone fantastico meal in Palm Beach when I need a genuine dog-gone Texan to prepare it. Count me out; I grew up in California where Mexican cuisine actually looks pretty and healthy. Not so, Texas. I need someone who understands brown – not green.

The Homesick Texan Cookbook - by the real purdy Lisa Fain - to the rescue. Firstly, I appreciate anyone who “after a fruitless search for tastes of Texas in New York City, takes matters into her own hands.” Secondly the dishes in her ‘own hands’ are wonderful!

Let’s cut to the chase; if you want to cook The Homesick Texan way, you can probably avoid buying cactus but you cannot avoid finding a source for Ro-Tel, a “spiced up can of tomatoes and chiles that is a standard ingredient in any Texan’s larder.” With the above-mentioned Ro-Tel tomatoes you can produce the perfect Chile con Queso. ‘Nuf said. That and a kitchen filled with iron skillets and a thorough knowledge of chiles, starts the delicious trek back to Texas and Tex-Mex heaven.

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homesicktexanAny fans of Lisa Fain’s first cookbook, Homesick Texan or her blog, Homesick Texan, will surely enjoy The Homesick Texan's Family Table, her latest cookbook of recipes inspired by family favorites. Fain always manages to put her own twist on the recipes, updating them, making them even better than you might remember and her stories of growing up in Texas will charm even those who have never been to the Lone Star state.

There are plenty of guilty pleasure recipes like Bacon and Chipotle Corn Pudding, Stacked Jalapeño Cheese Enchiladas and Potato Chorizo Breakfast Tacos, but also more modern fare like Blueberry Granola, Turkey Enchiladas with Sweet Potato Chipotle Sauce and Tuna with Avocado and Red Pepper Baked in Parchment. 

Taste-of-TanzaniaI tend to shy away from self-published books, but I was intrigued by Taste of Tanzania. I’ve not seen very many African cookbooks and even fewer designed for a Western audience. There are many indigenous ingredients that you won’t be able to find, and author Miriam Kinunda has made substations and focused on recipes that are more practical.

The recipes show a wide range of influences, Persian, Portuguese, Indian and also some Asian and European and has a lot of soup, stew and vegetable dishes. Some particularly appealing recipes include Swahili Beans, red beans cooked with coconut milk, onions, ginger, tomatoes and cilantro, Fish in Peanut Sauce and Ginger Tea.

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