Any cookbook that provides me with three or more good recipes is, in my view, a good cookbook. By those modest standards, The Kitchen Without Borders is a rousing success. Not only was it fascinating to explore the cuisines of the Levant, Algeria, West Africa, Sri Lanka, India and its neighbors, and Venezuela, but the profiles of the intrepid cooks who left their homes and voyaged to America gives voice and face to the modern immigrants who help keep our country a vibrant, growing melting pot. .In this case, the chefs are gathered in the kitchens of Eat Offbeat, a caterer in Long Island City, an area fittingly just across the East River from the United Nations.
While some of the 70 recipes are not your whip-it-out on a work weeknight dishes, many of them are, thanks to detailed coaching on method, easily attainable for the average cook. For a first simple sampler, try the recipes for Hummus or Baba Ganoush. Or Red Rice (basmati rice with tomato, raisins, almonds and fried onion). Then move on to Joloff Rice, a West African staple starring sauced onions and bell peppers.
The use of curry and fenugreek leaves in, for example, Chu La (ground chicken curry from Pakistan-Afghanistan-North India) is repeated in other dishes. These days, neither leaf is difficult to source. One of my local Vietnamese food shops carries fresh curry leaves.
Chicken Shawarma, a take on the ubiquitous mid-eastern street food, is quite simple once you have the spices in house. Then you can go on to concoct such flavorful entrees as Chari Bari (chicken meatballs in a Nepali-spices cashew sauce), and vegetarian soon-to-be-faves such as Adas (lentils pureed with berbere spices) and Toor Dhal (yellow lentil dhal), and Bhonji Carrot Curry (using another favorite ingredient, coconut milk). There's even a fairly simple recipe for dosas, one of my Indian favorites that are almost impossible to find in the U. S.
For any cook with curiosity and a yen to learn new flavor profiles, this is an invaluable source. The chef profiles adds an extra depth to the book. This is as much travelogue and mini-biography of its intrepid cooks as it is a mere collection of recipes. It's actually a collection of lives written in terms of their common love, food.
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