For me, January is the month when the days begin to get longer, though still cold, blustery and snowy, and I want to be busy and warm in the kitchen. At this time, I love to have the extra warmth from the oven and try hearty dishes and ones that take a little more time to prepare. While many recent books have offered “tweaks” on old or traditional recipes, these books offer recipes from around the world that I have never heard of or tried. It was hard to choose a few—so I didn’t!
Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking by Darra Goldstein (Ten Speed, 2015) explores the Nordic region’s rich culinary and cultural traditions, highlighting the commonalities among Danes, Finns, Norwegians and Swedes while showing the ways in which history’s arc and political alliances ultimately created distinctive cuisines.
Darra Goldstein is the Willcox B. and Harriet M. Adsit Professor of Russian, Emerita at Williams College and founding editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, named the 2012 Publication of the Year by the James Beard Foundation. She has published widely on literature, culture, art and cuisine.
Goldstein shares, “After my cookbook The Winter Vegetarian came out in 1996, I got caught up in publishing Gastronomica and didn’t have time to research or test recipes. But I really missed the kitchen, so when I stepped down as editor of Gastronomica I decided to write another cookbook. I realized that I’d spent a lot of time in the Nordic countries: I studied at University of Helsinki in college; my husband and I lived in Stockholm the first year of our marriage; and I did some consulting for the Norwegian Ministry of Culture. Scandinavia has always been alluring to me. It’s a land of extremes, where chic design meets rugged wilderness, where perpetual winter nights are succeeded by endless days of summer. The Scandinavians still live and cook according to seasonal rhythms, and many still practice hunting and foraging as natural activities in a region with some of the most pristine places on earth. So I decided to put all that into a book.”
Jack’s Wife Freda by Maya and Dean Jankelowitz with recipes by Julia Jaksic (Blue Rider Press, 2017) is a way for home cooks to replicate their favorite foods from the menu of the New York restaurant of the same name. Maya and Dean Jankelowitz met while working at a restaurant in the city in the early 2000s. Their dream was to open a restaurant together that was warm and welcoming, but had an eclectic menu inspired by creative dishes from their Jewish and international backgrounds (Maya is from Israel and Dean from South Africa), focusing on their family heritages. Jack’s Wife Freda (named after Dean’s grandmother) is the fulfillment of that dream and now has two locations in New York. The restaurants are a gathering place and a mecca for Jewish comfort foods.
The book provides the stories behind the recipes, as well as anecdotes from customers and staff. The recipes have been selected by Chef Julia Jaksic, a well-known restaurant consultant, to inspire all the feelings of the foods that evoke friends, community and family for the readers. Lovely photographs accompany the recipes, and the addition of a list of pantry and utensil essentials, plus hints and tips, make their preparation easy.
Discovering Tunisian Cuisine by Judith Dawn Hallet and Raoudha Guellali Ben Taarit (L’UniversitéTunis/Carthage International Center, 2018—to order, email Hallet) is a magnificent cookbook and travel log full of luscious color photos and traditional recipes. Hallet, an award-winning documentary filmmaker for the past 50 years, believes that “food is one of the bridges to understanding different culture. It is a must have for anyone interested in learning about a new cuisine, a wonderful country, and culture.” Her interest and introduction to Tunisian cuisine dates back to the mid-1960s, when she was a Peace Corps volunteer and taught English in Tunis. Her students would invite her to their homes for a traditional Sunday meal, which lasted all afternoon. A few years ago, while again living in Tunisia, Hallet lamented that fact that very few people know about the country’s fabulous cuisine and culture and decided a cookbook would be a wonderful way to educate people. She shared, “Most of the recipes are easy to make, need no unusual equipment and are based on a basic Mediterranean diet.”
Little Book of Jewish Appetizers by Leah Koenig (Chronicle Books, 2017) is just that, a small book that would make a great gift for any occasion, including the perfect hostess gift. You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy these deli-type snacks and spreads; many are recipes for today rooted in traditional recipes from the past: from chopped liver to smoked trout spread and many more. If snacks and appetizers are your “thing” to eat and serve, the 25 international and classic recipes will suit your palate. Recipes range from Green Matbucha or Bulemas to Sweet Cheese and Fig Strudel.