Not long ago, in the before-the-pandemic times it seemed so easy to hop on a plane, and within a few hours, be in a different world. The cultural exchange could start with a restaurant recommendation from a taxi driver, or by stumbling into a farmers market or wine shop.
With only a few countries accepting United States passports, many of us have delayed or canceled our international travel plans. In fact, Airbnb reports a surge in bookings in rural areas as many people are limiting their excursions to road trips and staycations. Even our North American neighbors Mexico and Canada remain closed to nonessential travelers.
As a small consolation, cookbooks that are on sale and coming this fall can take you to far-flung places through recipes and personal stories and provide the cultural interactions that help us understand the world.
While the books are no match to meeting the fisherman who catches your dinner in the south of France, they do introduce readers to people they will want to meet, and places they will want to visit when it's safe. Here are some cookbooks and recipes that will take you places.
"Falastin: A Cookbook" by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley; $35 (Ten Speed)
Described as "a love letter to Palestinian cooking," Falastin weaves stories by Sami Tamimi, the executive chef and founding partner of Ottolenghi restaurant group, with the history of the region that touches the Mediterranean Sea where Palestinians have lived for centuries. Readers will be transported to Jerusalem with reliable recipes that are indicative of Palestinian home cooking, including Arabic breads, lentils with pomegranate and eggplants, and labneh cheesecake with roasted apricots and cardamom.
LEMON CHICKEN WITH ZA'ATAR
As anyone who has cooked the chicken sheet-pan recipes from Sami's previous cookbooks - Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and Jerusalem - knows, the secret weapon behind so many (seemingly) effortless dinners is a make-ahead chicken dish that can just be put into the oven when needed. All the work is done in advance, which means that at dinnertime there is little fuss, and happy feasting.
1 whole chicken (2 3/4 pounds/1.3 kg), cut into legs, thighs, and breasts with the wing-tips left on (or about 2 pound 2 ounces/1 kg of chicken legs or breasts with the wing-tips left on), skin on
2 onions, sliced in half, then each half cut into 3 wedges (2 3/4 cups/260 g)
2 heads of garlic, skin on, sliced in half, crosswise
2 teaspoon sumac
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoon/25 g za'atar
6 tablespoons/90 ml olive oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons/200 ml chicken stock or water
Salt and black pepper
1/4 cup/5 g parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup/30 g sliced almonds, toasted
Cut 2 of the lemons into 1/4-inch slices and place in a large mixing bowl. Finely grate the zest of the remaining lemon (to get 1 1/2 teaspoons of zest) and set this aside for later. Squeeze the same lemon to get about 1 1/2 tablespoons of juice and add this to the mixing bowl along with the chicken, onions, garlic, sumac, allspice, 2 tablespoons of za'atar, 2 tablespoons of oil, the stock, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well to combine, then cover with a large plate and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours (or overnight, if you have time).
Half an hour or an hour before baking, take the chicken out of the fridge; it should be at room temperature before going into the oven.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Transfer the chicken to a large rimmed baking sheet, skin side up, and pour on all the marinade and lemon slices. Drizzle the chicken with 1 tablespoon of oil and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the chicken is golden and cooked through and the onions have taken on some color.
Toward the end of the cooking time for the chicken, combine the parsley, lemon zest, remaining 2 tablespoons of za'atar, and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl.
Transfer the chicken to a serving platter along with the lemon slices and any juices that have collected at the bottom of the pan. Spoon the parsley mixture on the chicken, finish with the almonds, and serve.
(Reprinted with permission from "Falastin: A Cookbook.")
"In Bibi's Kitchen" by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen; $35 (Ten Speed. Oct. 13)
In many cultures, "bibi" means grandmother. These are the women from eight countries whose personal stories of love, loss, war, migration and family, make up an evocative cookbook. Hassan and Turshen explore how recipes and culture tie people together through dishes like Sukuma Wiki, stewed greens and tomatoes, that are familiar to African and African Americans alike. The book is also filled with expressive photography by Khadija Farah and soulful food photography by Jennifer May.
(Greens with Tomatoes)
These well-seasoned greens are similar to collards, which, with their fragrant potlikker, are popular in the American South and are a reminder of the undeniably deep threads that tie together African and African American cooking. Sukuma Wiki means "to stretch the week" - in other words, using these greens, which are affordable and readily available, can help stretch any meal a bit further. Greens are a staple in Kenyan cooking and in most East African cooking in general. Serve this dish with rice for a traditional, healthy, and completely vegan meal.
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 pound kale and/or collards (or any dark leafy greens), tough stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Warm the oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot set over medium heat. Add the onion, cumin, coriander, and turmeric and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, greens, a large pinch of salt, and the water. Stir everything well to combine, cover, and simmer until the greens are very tender and soft, about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat, stir in the lemon juice, season the greens to taste with salt, and serve immediately.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a few days and rewarmed in a heavy pot set over low heat (stir while you heat).
Reprinted with permission from "In Bibi's Kitchen."
"World Food: Mexico City" by James Oseland; $35 (Random House; Nov. 24)
In this forthcoming title, James Oseland takes readers to Mexico's vibrant capital city for a day with chefs, home cooks, and bakers for dishes from street food to fine dining. He uses their voices to provide a lens into the culinary scene of Mexico City, which is influenced by indigenous and immigrant cultures. The book with 75 recipes and evocative photography is the inaugural cookbook in the World Food series. A Paris book follows in 2021.
PASTA CON CAMARONES
Juicy with tomatoes, this pasta dish is light yet hearty, with depth of flavor from potent arbol chiles. It's based on a recipe from Gabriela Camara of Contramar, the greatest of Mexico City's seafood restaurants.
Serves 4 as a first course, or 2 as a main course
8 ounces dried long pasta (such as fettuccine or spaghetti)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 medium white onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 dried arbol chiles, cut into 1/4-inch pieces, with seeds
6 medium Roma tomatoes, minced (about 2 cups)
12 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup finely crumbled Cotija or Pecorino Romano cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chiles and cook, stirring, until the garlic softens, about 3 minutes; don't let the garlic turn too golden. Add the tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of their liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Raise the heat slightly, add the shrimp, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque and pink, about 6 minutes. Taste for salt and add if needed. Add the cooked pasta and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and combine well.
Transfer the pasta to individual bowls, top with the basil and cheese, and serve immediately.
"East" by Meera Sodha; $30 (Flatiron Books; Oct. 20)
For her third book, Meera Sodha, a vegan columnist for the Guardian, goes on a culinary journey to discover how home cooks center vegetables. She fills the book with personal stories of visits to countries like Sri Lanka and communities like Chinatown in London for inspiration. "Vegan constraints are a catalyst for creativity," she writes. Her recipes, therefore, have suggestions for dairy substitutions, fermentations, and unexpected desserts including a salted miso brownie.
MILLI'S MATCHA ROLL CAKE WITH RASPBERRIES AND CREAM
Milli Taylor's grandma was Japanese. When she came to the UK in 1954, she had no option but to cook English food. Milli didn't inherit her grandmother's recipes but still became one of the best caterers in London.
Note: For this recipe, you'll need a 10-inch by 13-inch jelly roll pan. The cake is best eaten on the day it's made but can last in the fridge for two days.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons matcha powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large eggs (separated)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup raspberry jam
Scant 1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Heaping 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the jelly roll pan with parchment paper, folding it tightly into the corners so that the paper comes up the sides by 1 inch.
Sift together the flower, matcha, baking powder and salt. Separate the eggs from the whites into two large bowls. Add the sugar to the yolks. Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Without cleaning the attachment, whisk the yolks with the sugar until it doubles, then stir in the matcha flour mixture into the egg yolk bowl.
Using a large spatula, fold the egg whites into the yolks, being careful not to knock out too much air. Pour the batters in the lined pan and level with a spatula. Tap the pan to release air bubbles. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cake springs back to the touch.
Remove from oven and let rest for exactly 1 minute, then place a sheet of parchment paper over the top of the and gently flip to remove it from the pan.
Using a sharp knife, score a 1-inch mark along the short end of the cake. Tuck the parchment paper over the edge, then loosely roll the cake from one short end to the other, rolling the parchment paper with it. Transfer to a cooling rack. Cover with a kitchen towel and cool for 30 minutes.
When cool, unroll the cake and spread jam to the edges. Whisk together heavy cream and powdered sugar to soft peaks, then spread on top of the jam. Gently roll the sponge with the seam on the bottom. Place on a sheet pan and refrigerate for two hours or until set.
To serve, cut into even slices.
Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books.
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