From the Bedouin communities in the mountains of Oman to the dimly lit ryokans tucked away in the streets of Tokyo, a delicious sense of place is the key ingredient in this season’s newest cookbooks. Read on for a taste of each volume and a word from the authors about the destinations that inspired them.
By Matt Goulding
Harper Wave | October 27, 2015
From kaiseki in Kyoto to humble ramen in Fukuoka, Rice, Noodle, Fish follows Eat This, Not That! author Matt Goulding on a 5,000-mile journey through Japan’s complex food culture.
Here's an excerpt from the fourth chapter, which focuses on the city of Fukuoka:
“Most Japanese food is a collective experience: the sushi chef feeds you piece by piece, the yakitori arrives in a great heap for divvying up, and the shabu-shabu bubbles away between you and your dining partners. But not ramen. With ramen it is just you and the bowl—the most intense and intimate of all good experiences in Japan. You may belly up to the bar with friends or colleagues in tow, but once your bowl arrives, all talking ceases as you turn your attention entirely to the task of conveying noodles and soup from bowl to mouth. No conversing, no pausing, no “How is the soup working out for you?” from the waitstaff. You bow your head, let the steam wash over you, and don’t look up again until you see the bottom of the bowl.”
By Felicia Campbell
Andrew McMeel Publishers | October 13, 2015
In The Food of Oman, author and former Saveur editor Felicia Campbell lifts the veil of the lesser-known world of Oman, whose diverse culinary heritage draws from Bedouin hospitality as well as the influential Asian, Persian, and African traders who passed over its lands through the centuries.
“After years spent exploring the foods of the Middle East, Oman changed everything I thought I knew, offering flavors that felt vaguely familiar, yet unlike anything I’d tasted before," Campbell tells Travel + Leisure. "The men, in their ankle-length dishdasha and embroidered kuma caps, and the women, wrapped in brilliantly colored cloth from India, looked as diverse as the landscape, and their foods echoed both their homeland and heritage, rooted in Bedouin pragmatism and hospitality and punctuated by the curiosity and adventurousness of Indian Ocean seafarers. In Oman, mountainous dishes of rice are enlivened with ginger, cloves, cardamom, and tart black lime; vegetables are simmered with chiles in rich coconut milk; coffee is laced with cardamom and rose water; and sweets are enhanced with dates and saffron. There is always more than enough to feed the boisterous crowd of brothers, sisters, in-laws, and children who spend their free Friday afternoons enjoying both the food and the opportunity to be together. When I find myself craving Omani cuisine, it is not only the exotic flavors I long for, but also the magic of the place itself, the surprises it holds, and the moments of intimacy and togetherness I found there.”
By Magnus Nilsson
Phaidon | October 26, 2015
Magnus Nilsson’s Nordic Cookbook has more than 700 recipes, from the classic (lingonberry jam) to the intriguing (rose-hip soup), with landscape photographs by Nilsson himself.
As Nilsson writes, “The fastest way to understand the Nordic region’s food culture is to eat an open sandwich topped with butter and hard cheese. Such a sandwich is usually made from fresh ingredients that have been preserved for long-term storage, such as bread, leavened, seasoned butter and dry, hard cheese that has ideally been matured for one or two years. Many northerners eat this sandwich every day; its origins can be traced back for more than a millennium and it exists in hundreds of variants. An open cheese sandwich speaks of the most fundamental aspects that make up a food culture in the Nordic region, but also demonstrates that a “taste chord” (the harmony that comes from several flavors) can live a very long time if it’s important to people and provides meaning.”
By Dominique Crenn with Karen Leibowitz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | November 3, 2015
Dominique Crenn’s entry into the world of cookbooks is an ode to the considered ingredients and pared-down aesthetics at her Bay Area restaurant.
“When I was growing up, my family spent every summer in Brittany, where my grandparents on both sides had farms," Crenn explains. "My paternal uncle and aunt kept cows and pigs, while grandmother grew potatoes, raised chickens, and kept a garden for vegetables that she traded with other villagers. The rest of the year, I lived with my parents and brother outside Paris, but those summers in Brittany really shaped me and my love for restaurants. In terms of food, Brittany is known for butter, apples, potatoes, buckwheat, and seafood (especially oysters) and those ingredients are still touchstones for me. Almost every dish at Atelier Crenn pays homage to Brittany, but never in a straightforward or traditional way. In some dishes, I gravitate toward the ingredients I ate as a child, but I pair them with new flavors that I have encountered as an adult; in others, I revisit classic dishes from a modern perspective, which I believe breathes new life into the traditions I love.”
By Daniel Humm and Will Guidara
Ten Speed Press | October 13, 2015
The coffee-table–worthy Nomad Cookbook from New York City’s Eleven Madison Park includes the recipe for its chicken with truffle stuffing, plus a cocktail manual hidden in the back.
In the introduction, Guidara writes, “At some point, it stopped being cool to hang out at hotels. Even restaurants in hotels fought fiercely for their brand independence, coming up with their own names and often adding separate entrances. New York City’s great halls of community faded from local popularity, becoming places for tourists to visit. We wanted The NoMad to change that—to be beautiful, rich, and luxurious, but fun, cool, and accessible. We wanted it to be a place where the people who greet you at the front door and check you into your room are the same as those who take your order for lunch, or serve you a cocktail at 1 a.m.”
By Eric Werner and Mya Henry
Artisan | October 20, 2015
Two New York expats left everything behind to start this off-grid restaurant in Tulum; their first cookbook, containing photography and anecdotes as vibrant as Mexico itself, brings the flavors of the Yucatan to life.
“My wife, Mya, and I fell in love with Tulum and the wonderful culture and life that surround it," Werner writes. "The adventure alone attracted us, and because we worked in restaurants for most of our lives, we thought we should try it in a place that we wanted to explore. We moved to Mexico in May of 2010 with only a vague plan. Cooking down in the Yucatán, we had a new world of ingredients to discover—the Caribbean was at our fingertips. As we traveled around the region, we became driven in our search for ingredients. Visiting the markets in the Yucatán is like being transported to another world. The best ideas start with a simple conversation with the vendors. “What’s the name of this? How is it used?” This area has so many ingredients that are barely documented in Spanish, never mind in English, so you need to start at the beginning. We rely on centuries-old techniques to make ingredients like the beautifully floral recado rojo paste—one of the true standards of Maya comfort food.”
By Darra Goldstein
Ten Speed Press | October 13, 2015
Harboring a deep love for Scandinavian home-cooking, Gastronomica founding editor Darra Goldstein explores the nuances of seasonal cuisines from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland in Fire + Ice.
Here's an excerpt from the book's introduction:
“For me, the Nordic region has always been a place of intensities. I first traveled there forty years ago, on the verge of the summer solstice. As a near-penniless college student I'd taken a cheap flight to Finland that landed me in Helsinki at midnight. I remember exiting the plane's dim interior into an astonishing half-light, a subtle yet radiant glow like a waking dream. For a moment I felt more disoriented than if I'd stepped out into pitch darkness—at least then I would have had my midnight bearings. But I soon gave myself over the the mysterious light—the fabled midnight sun—and the surprising forms its shadows cast. I no longer recall how I made my way to the hostel or how I made myself understood at a time when few Finns spoke English, but the quality of that light has stayed with me all these years—as has the memory of the wondrous breakfast I woke up to the next morning. Fresh rhubarb compote with heavy cream, rye porridge, light-as-air lingonberry pudding, barley bread inflected with fennel and anise seed, each flavor a small explosion on my tongue.”
By Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman
Clarkson Potter | October 20, 2015
From how to craft the perfect fresh tortilla to salsas of every variety, Alex Stupak, of New York City’s Empellón Taqueria fame, takes a closer look at this particular Mexican export.
“If you’ve traveled through Mexico City, you’ve probably seen an al pastor trompo—a vertical rotisserie loaded with a hunk of pineapple and marinated pork that cooks slowly as it rotates in front of a gas flame," explains Stupak. "Shave a pile of the roasted meat into a tortilla, add a nick of the warm fruit, and you have tacos al pastor—a shawarma-like “frankenfood” that’s said to have come to Mexico by way of Lebanese immigrants. To learn about al pastor in its ancestral home, my co-author Jordana and I took an R&D trip to Mexico City to visit taquerías. We saw trompos dyed orange with adobo and trompos that seemed to have no marinade at all. Onions were diced and piled up at the foot of the spit, or they were tiny cebollas charring on their own separate griddle. Everywhere there were salsas rojas and salsas verdes, pickled onions with habanero chiles, salt shakers, and wedges of lime—endless ways to dress and customize our tacos. At night we ate at taquerías that were auto-body shops by day, and taquerías that were staffed by teenagers chewing jícama sticks, and taquerías squeezed into market stalls next to vendors selling hula hoops and live chickens and banana leaves folded up like bed linens. Our book isn’t inspired by any one city in Mexico, but it was in Mexico City that we learned some important lessons about the nature of this cuisine, and the extent to which it is a moving target—subject to the whims of its environment as it is to the hand of its maker.”
By Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | October 6, 2015
Zahav, a compilation of all the best dishes served at Israeli chef Michael Solomonov’s wildly successful Philadelphia restaurant, brings the tastes of Jerusalem to the every home, from tehina (the foundation of hummus) to its famous smoked lamb shoulder in pomegranate molasses.
An excerpt from the introductory chapter, "An Improbable Journey": “After a couple of trips to Israel together, [my business partner] Steve Cook and I began discussing opening an “Israeli” restaurant. There was something magical about eating in Israel, we agreed, something that you just could not find back home, and certainly not in an upscale restaurant. In Israel, the meal always began with pita and hummus and other dips, followed by a dizzying array of bright vegetable salads, plate after plate of intensely flavored mezze, and ending with skewers of kebabs and shishlik grilled over live charcoal. It was all delicious and soulful, vibrant and elemental. It was rich but healthy. It was old but new. Slowly my destiny seemed to reveal itself. Someone had to translate all of this for the American palate, and I knew then that it should be me.”
By Blaine Wetzel and Joe Ray
Running Press | October 27, 2015
Blaine Wetzel, the James Beard Award-winning chef who singlehandedly put Washington’s isolated Lummi Island on America’s culinary map, narrates how local ingredients transformed his restaurant The Willows into one of the most sought-after reservations in the country.
“The trails running through Lummi Island are tunnels carved out of bountiful wild berries, never-ending evergreens, and wild flowers," Wetzel tells Travel + Leisure. "On all edges of the coast are the cold stones constantly washed by the Pacific's deepest waters and dragged in by the tide, bringing with them the aroma of shellfish and sea vegetables. Mazes of deer tracks lead through ancient orchards, untouched forests, and land where wild ingredients grow alongside tilled soil. Lummi Island is its own cuisine.”
By Adam and Jackie Sappington
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | September 1, 2015
Husband-and-wife team Adam and Jackie Sappington never forgot the foods and family recipes from growing up in America’s rural heartlands—all the makings for their Portland restaurant, The Country Cat, and Heartlandia.
“I liked listening to classic rock and floating down the river as much as any Midwest boy, but I also spent a lot of time helping my mom and grannies shop for ingredients and cook our food," writes Adam in the introduction. "My mom was all about going to the supermarket but my gramma Gina, well, she knew where to get the special stuff. We’d drive down to the little league baseball fields together and watch the farmers pull up in their trucks and open their beds to sell their wares. You knew you were in Missouri because those truck beds were full of beefsteak tomatoes, corn, and tons of green beans. We’d buy what looked good and fresh and head back to the kitchen, where we would pull out a brown paper bag, pour out the beans, and start picking.”
By Travis Lett
Chronicle | October 27, 2015
The first cookbook from chef Travis Lett, of L.A.’s lauded restaurant Gjelina, contains 125 recipes that embody what California cooking and eating is today: farm-to-table recipes, locally sourced ingredients, and salads galore.
Consider, as an example, Lett's introduction to Roasted Beets with Avocado, Orange, Toasted Hazelnuts & Sherry Vinegar: “This is a nice recipe to turn to in early fall, when avocados hit the market in full force. After a long summer of sunny days, avocados are rich and oily and ideal to feature alongside roasted baby beets spiked with sherry vinegar. Hass, Reed, and Bacon are a few of the many varieties of avocados we have access to in California. They’re all fantastic when at their peak. Marinating the beets to slightly pickle them results in a beautiful beet-juice-tinted sherry vinaigrette, which we pour over the finished dish.”
By Madhur Jaffrey
Knopf | October 27, 2015
Seven-time James Beard Award-winning author Madhur Jaffrey embarked on a round-the-country journey to understand the vegetarian lifestyle of more than 300 million Indians; the result is Vegetarian India, a compendium of 200 easy-to-cook recipes from the farmers, doctors, and artists she met along the way.
“British colonialists could not pronounce the name of the princely, southern Indian state of Kodagu, so they called it Coorg and declared it the 'Scotland of India,' with its lofty mountains and ethereal mists," Jaffrey says. "There, they set up coffee, black pepper, and cardamom plantations, and many traveled up the hills as a respite from the heat of the plains. I had heard of the delights of Kodaga food, which was unlike that of much of India. It was one of many lesser-known places I traveled to, searching for uncommon recipes.
Coorg is in the state of Southern Karnataka. While many travel to visit the region’s stunning temples, like the one at Belur, few go further into Coorg, to a district in the heart of the Western Ghats, the mountainous range that rises from the Arabian Sea on the southwest coast of India. Unlike Scotland, it is tropical and very green. During the monsoon season, the entire population delights in eating foraged foods from the forests that appear annually: mushrooms, some small enough to carpet the ground, others the size of dinner plates; fiddlehead ferns, curled-up colocasia leaves; bamboo shoots; and all manner of wild fruit."
By Lynn Cline
Leaf Storm | September 1, 2015
The food of New Mexico, a state shaped throughout the years by influential tastemakers like Georgia O’Keeffe, Billy the Kid, and Dennis Hopper, is brought to life through fictional anecdotes and era-specific recipes by Santa Fe local Lynn Cline.
“Taos is a faraway place, a fabled land of ancient Pueblo people that became a destination for noteworthy artists and writers of the 20th century, brought there by Buffalo banking heiress and arts maven Mabel Dodge Luhan," Cline tells T+L. "Mabel's adobe estate, which she and her lover—a Taos Pueblo chieftain—built by hand, became Dennis Hopper's residence in the 1970s. Known then as the Mud Palace, it drew hippies and movie stars for midnight feasts. Today, the house is an historic inn and conference center, and Taos continues to be a place of deep beauty and rich inspiration.”
By Enrique Olvera
Phaidon | October 19, 2015
In his first English language cookbook, star chef Enrique Olvera decodes his country’s dynamic cuisine through vivid photography, personal anecdotes, and recipes that range from sophisticated to down-home.
He writes, “Although found throughout the country, street food has particularly strong roots in Mexico City, where over 10 million people use public transportation daily. Held hostage by traffic, hungry commuters satisfy their cravings on the sidewalk.
Juan Villoro says that nomadic and vagrant cuisine feeds people not where hunger leads them but where traffic drops them off.
We also eat on the street for pleasure—free from social class distinction. Even the highest-ranking executive shamelessly wolfs down a taco.
Part of my memories are wrapped in tortillas: tacos de cabeza in Monterrey; tacos de langosta in Puerto Nuevo; tacos de lechon in Mérida; tacos de hoja santa in Oaxaca; tacos de guisado in Querétaro; and tacos de carnitas con chicharron, de bictec, or al pastor in Mexico City. No two tacos are the same.
We eat tacos practically every day, and while they look like ordinary street food, they are anything but. They sum up what, and how, we like to eat.”
By Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton
Ten Speed Press | October 27, 2015
Japanese clay pots known as donabe, used to brew simple meals such as tofu in miso sauce and shabu-shabu, have survived for generations and still have a place in kitchens today. Cooking teacher Naoko Takei Moore explores the meals it prepares and the sense of community it fosters in homes worldwide.
“Iga, a historic province in the western part of Japan, not far from Kyoto or Osaka, is a beautiful place surrounded by nature—and it’s also the home of the Iga-yaki donabe, a clay pot that can be used to cook hot pot and other communal dishes," says Takei Moore. "Nagatani-en, an artisanal donabe producer in Iga, was founded in 1832 and has been run by the Nagatani family for more than eight generations. My experiences with the family in Iga taught me that a donabe is not just a cooking vessel, but also a way to bond with people over a shared dining experience.”