“A culinary greatest hits of the world.” That’s how best-selling author David Joachim describes his 40th cookbook, Cooking Light Global Kitchen: The World's Most Delicious Food Made Easy (Oxmoor House; $29.95), which hit shelves this week. It’s a compendium of 150 recipes—including 120 pulled from Cooking Light’s 25-year-old archive developed by the likes of Lidia Bastianich and Rick Bayless.
Joachim created the remaining dishes, making sure each of the regions—East Asia and India; Southeast Asia and Australia; the Middle East and Africa; Europe and Eurasia; South America; and North and Central America—received fair coverage in the book. He also tapped into chefs and experts (Michael Solomolov, Marc Vetri, Marcus Samuelsson, Jose Garces, to name a few) for cooking tips and cultural insights, which appear as mini “Taste of Culture” essays throughout the book. Here, Joachim takes us inside the pages.
Q: How did you narrow down the recipes?
A: I combed through Cooking Light’s collection and selected ones that were not only authentic, but also doable for an American audience. And for each region, I made sure the iconic dishes were represented. For example, in Southeast Asia, we had to have pad thai and satay.
Some people may assume that they’ll need hard-to-find ethnic ingredients for the recipes. Is that the case?
Everything in the book can be bought at a Whole Foods or a decent supermarket. Most mainstream markets now carry things like lemongrass, chilies, plantains, even yucca. So there are ingredients—especially in produce—that people walk by everyday but aren’t taking advantage of.
What are a couple of your favorite dishes in the book?
Chelo kebab, an Iranian lamb-and-rice dish. But the rice is what makes it special. It’s a multi-step process to cook properly, but you get soft rice on top and this crispy layer of rice on bottom, known as tah dig.
You write about rice in one of the book’s cultural spotlights. What did you learn?
It was really interesting to hear different stories about rice. Americans consider it a side dish, but in China, it’s the focus of the meal—it’s considered rude not to finish your rice. And in many Asian countries, it’s taboo to leave your chopsticks sticking up in it; it’s a practice that’s done during funeral ceremonies that symbolizes the dead person eating.
What regions are the most exciting to you personally?
I really like simple bold flavors, and the place I found that was Greece. The food there is just so crystal clear and delicious, partly because the growing climate there produces incredible food. But the most exciting cuisine really is in Asia. Unlike European cuisines, which often put together flavors that are harmonious, it’s the opposite in Asia. They contrast ingredients that have different flavor compounds, like soy sauce and chilies. Europe is more like a contained fire—and Asia is like fireworks.
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.