World Cuisine

takashisnoodles-1.jpgFirst up is Takashi's Noodles. They say if you get just one great recipe from a cookbook, it is worth the price. In that case, let me tell you about Spicy Eggplant Ja-Ja-Men Udon. Chef Yakashi Takashi, owner of Takashi's in Chicago describes this dish as a Japanese version of spaghetti and bolognese sauce. It's basically a spicy eggplant and ground pork sauce over noodles with peppers, spicy notes and a creamy sauce that is enriched with sesame paste.

The recipe has 18 ingredients but I skipped a few altogether and used substitutions for a couple more and can't imagine it made any discernible difference. I didn't bother with the 1/2 cup dashi, 1/3 cup canned bamboo shoots, teaspoon of cornstarch or 3 Tablespoons of sake. I used Chinese chili garlic paste instead of a Japanese variety and Chinese sesame paste instead of tahini. I had to buy exactly 2 ingredients to make the dish, green peppers and ground pork. I could eat this dish every week.!

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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where chefs eatWhen my lovely daughter, Hillary was a Malibu pre-teen, I gave her what I thought was a total slam-dunk-she-is-going-to adore-it-Christmas present: A beanbag sofa in the shape of a large sneaker bought from the Neiman Marcus catalog. Fortunately, Neiman’s has always been gracious about returns, but my daughter still hesitates before she opens a gift from me. Bill and I on the other hand bask in the unexpected delights of her choices… though, how does one carry a 1000 page book (in small print yet) in a back pocket?

Please understand, this is not just your ordinary gift book; this is a bible - a primer from the Real Experts, and it is Where Chefs Eat: A Guide to Chefs' Favorite Restaurants (2015).

The cover is a visually busy almanac-styled side show tent chock full of promises: “Where to Eat, When to Go, What to Order, From more than 600 of the best chefs, From Fast Food to Haute Cuisine, A Truly Global Guide, Expert Local Knowledge. Forget the restaurant guides compiled by a panel of mysterious experts, this international guide is by the real insiders, over 600 of the world’s leading chefs. From Late-Night Hangouts to … (but we will never know as there is a big faux sticker saying … Brand New) If that is not enough to stuff this tome of tomes in one’s back pocket, try cruising the contents. Oh Boy, this beats the original Preppy Handbook for feeling in the know!

I mean, really, I know all the cool spots in Auckland, Shanghai, London, Berlin, Estonia, Latvia and The Russian Federation, Cyprus, Istanbul, West Hollywood and Tanzania – just to name a few. So, if you want to name drop where Daniel Boulud, David Chang or René Redzepi or Yotam Ottolenghi hang, then this book is for you… and you… and you. (OMG It even has maps!)

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tofu-cover“Despite all the terrible terms that have been attached to tofu, it is still considered a good four-letter word by countless people. “ That’s how Andrea Nguyen begins her latest cookbook, Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It at Home

I share Nguyen’s feelings about tofu. It’s an unjustly maligned food. I’ve encountered numerous people who say they hate tofu even when they’ve never eaten it. Why the tofu antipathy? I blame Tofurky and other soy “meats” for defaming tofu’s reputation. Proteins should know their place: bacon should be bacon, sausage should be sausage, and tofu should be tofu.

Andrea Nguyen understands this, which is why she has dedicated an entire book to this ancient Asian staple. Nguyen, a respected writer and teacher, deliciously demonstrates her knowledge of and love for tofu. She tells the history of tofu —which was created during the Han Dynasty (201 BCE- 220CE) — includes a Homemade Tofu Tutorial for do-it-yourself-ers, and offers nearly 100 tempting recipes from soups to desserts.

If you think tofu is simply that white block of soy you find in the refrigerator section of your supermarket, then you’re in for a surprise.

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ImageIndia: The Cookbook
The amount most of us knows about Indian cuisine is miniscule. And yet, who doesn't love Indian food? Making it at home using the best ingredients is a revelation. This book has the largest collection of Indian recipes that I have ever seen. The introductory sections on the regions of India alone is wonderful.

Bookmarked recipes: Dry cabbage in masala, Lamb in chickpea flour and curry yogurt, Coconut filled pancakes

Why?
This encyclopedia of 1000 recipes will be your go-to Indian cooking reference.

Who?
Those who love Indian food but want to experience a wider variety of fresh, tasty food than they can find in any given Indian restaurant.

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