During the hot, humid days of summer, there is nothing more relaxing than being an armchair traveler. Get a variety of great looking books, enjoy the beautiful pictures of scenery and learn about cultures and, of course, food. Take yourself to faraway places, ones you have possibly dreamed about visiting, but never gone. Here are three books to take you on a Silk Road journey, to cultures that are among the oldest on earth, and then back to your kitchen for dessert. Sit back and enjoy, then head for the kitchen.
Sephardic Heritage Cookbook: Ottoman, Persian, Moroccan, Egyptian Recipes and More by the Sephardic Temple Or Chadash Sisterhood (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017): Linda Capeloto Sendowski is an author and fabulous cook with Sephardic Jewish heritage. Her father’s parents came from Rhodes, Greece, and her mother’s parents from Turkey. She has a lifelong love of food, its stories, dishes, celebrations and their symbolism.
After publishing her first book, Sephardic Baking From Nona, in 2015, she realized she had lots of valuable experience to contribute and joined Marcia Weingarten and Jacqueline Slutske of the Or Chadash Sisterhood Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel in Los Angeles to help put together a new community cookbook, Sephardic Heritage Cookbook: Ottoman, Persian, Moroccan, Egyptian Recipes and More.
To create the book, the women gathered for lunch meetings, each hosted by a different member who shared her family’s recipes and stories. Sendowski, along with others, interviewed community members, contributed recipes, edited and photographed, devoting many hours to bringing this project to fruition. The result is a marvelous collection of recipes and stories that will enhance any holiday or family dinner or celebration.
Pomegranates and Saffron: A Culinary Journey to Azerbaijan by Feride Buyuran (AZ Cookbook, 2015): Feride Buyuran was born and raised in Baku, Azerbaijan, and moved to the United States at the age of 24. She is the award-winning author of Pomegranates & Saffron: A Culinary Journey to Azerbaijan and the writer behind the blog, AZ Cookbook, where she shares recipes and stories from her native Azerbaijan and beyond. She currently teaches culinary classes in her home in Long Beach, California, and cooking schools, offering participants a hands-on experience of cooking the foods of the Caucasus and Turkey, while allowing them a cultural immersion with the knowledge she shares.
Azerbaijani cuisine has a fascinating culinary history—it evolved gradually over the centuries as new ingredients and techniques were introduced and embraced or discovered as a result of a centuries-long cultural exchange between East and West. Although mainstream local foods are typically known and cooked all over the country, there are also lesser-known food traditions of ethnic groups living there, including Molokan Russians and Jews, who contribute to the culinary repertoire of the country, enriching it even more. Buyuran shares, “I wanted to highlight this contribution in my book as well. It all makes what we call the cuisine of Azerbaijan today.”
She adds, “My goal in writing this book was to show the beauty and diversity of the cuisine, which Anya Vom Brenzen mentioned in a book as ‘the most distinct, yet the least known of all three Caucasian republics.’”
Dorie’s Cookies by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016): Dorie’s Cookies is the most recent book from prolific cookbook author (she’s written 12!) Dorie Greenspan, a book she wrote after creating over 300 cookie recipes over the course of her career (You could call her “the cookie maven”). The winner of numerous awards, Greenspan was the author of the “Everyday Dorie” column for the Washington Post for two years. She got her start as a freelance writer focusing on baking; later she owned and ran a cookie shop in New York City.
“As for how I got into food writing: Food writing was the confluence of two areas I was passionate about: food, of course, and sharing food with others. I had written more business-oriented material for years before I started writing about food. It wasn’t until I’d quit graduate school, had a child and discovered that I didn’t love working in a bakery (I was too slow to ever be really good at production) that I started writing about food. That was 12 cookbooks and about 30 years ago and every day I’m delighted I made the change.”
Dorie’s Cookies, a winner of a James Beard Award, is full of new twists on a number of classic cookie recipes, including several that bring French techniques to American ingredients, which shouldn’t be surprising for someone who splits her time between New York City, Connecticut and Paris.
When I asked Greenspan why she tweaked already-good recipes, she told me, “I’m a constant tinkerer. As soon as I finish making something, I think about ways to make it another way. This is why so many of my recipes in Dorie’s Cookies have variations. I list them under the heading ‘Playing Around.’”