Friday, April 20, 2007
I want to share two wonderful cookbooks I received for my birthday and eid (new year) last month. My mom gave them to me, knowing that I never buy cookbooks for myself. Thanks, mom!
The first one is a book that Daiku and I have had our eyes on for a while, "Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey" by Najmieh Batmanglij. If you, like me, read cookbooks not just for recipes, but also for the story that they tell, this book is for you. Illustrated with hundreds of sumptuous photos (of people and places as well as food), this book follows the author on a journey on the ancient silk road, starting in Italy and ending in China. I have learned so much about the shared culinary heritage of the various countries on the silk road- Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, the list goes on and on. I don't know why the author decided to focus on vegetarian cuisine (her other books are not vegetarian), but I'm thankful and intrigued that she did! I will definitely be cooking and posting from this book frequently. Batmanglij, who is Iranian, has included many Iranian recipes, which will help me greatly in my "vegan Iranian" project- stay tuned!
Next up, another book on vegetarian cooking from a well-known author, "World Vegetarian" by Madhur Jaffrey. I know many of you are already familiar with this book, I myself have been wanting it for a long time. Like "Silk Road Cooking" this book offers diverse recipes from a vast number of different countries and regions. Jaffrey recounts a meeting with a woman who asked her, "What do vegetarians eat? A lot of steamed broccoli, I guess." and says that she spent years writing this book to prove that woman wrong. And I am glad she did!
We have cooked several recipes from this book so far:
Punjabi Style Cauliflower with Potatoes and Ginger (Aloo Gobi.) This recipe helped take us out of our Indian cooking rut (who knew that authentic Aloo Gobi doesn't have onions or garlic? Not me!) and was delicious, even though we used frozen cilantro instead of fresh. I might have increased the spices a bit, as this was a milder dish than I'm used to, but the flavors played well together.
Spicy cole slaw with mustard seeds. I knew I loved this book as soon as I saw the sheer number of different cole slaw recipes- I can't wait to try them all! As you might know, cole slaw, in all its manifestations and variations, is among my all-time favorite things to eat. This was a nice counter-balance to the hot and hearty aloo gobi.
Cauliflower and okra fritters in a chickpea flour batter. We don't often deep-fry (I have a pathological fear of oil splatters. But did you know that properly done, deep fried foods can have LESS fat than sauteed or shallow fried foods?) but these were delicious. As you can see, we put them in our coffee filters to soak up some of the oil and get that great street food look!
We replaced the egg whites in the batter with flax egg replacer and it worked just fine.
Close-up of a fritter dipped in a spicy ketchup/sriracha combo.
I can't wait to cook more from both of these books!
Here are two non-food related gifts I got for my birthday:
From my friend and grad. school comrade, Nicole, who knows that my writing has me drowning in a certain genre of 20th century art... These are Surreal post-its, or "Surreal-its". The picture of Salvador Dalí alone made me laugh out loud. I love imagining that whatever I stick these on will be surreal-ized. Thanks for the thoughtful gift, Nicole!
Another book I have wanted for a while is "So What", a selection of poems from Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali. He writes about the experience of exile, one's uncanny relationship with home, and the longing to return to something that may no longer exist. Even though his poems have frequent glimmers of hope, I often respond to the sad tone of nostalgia and pessimism in his words. This book has Ali's poems in Arabic as well as their English translations.
Here's a one of my favorite poems from the book:
Our traces have all been erased,
our impressions swept away--
and all the remains
have been effaced...
there isn't a single sign
left to guide us
or show us a thing.
The age has grown old,
the days long,
and I, if not for the lock of your hair,
auburn as the nectar of carob,
and soft as the scent of silk
that was here before,
dozing like Arabian jasmine,
shimmering like the gleam of dawn,
pulsing like a star--
I, if not for that lock of camphor,
would not feel a thing
to this land.
by Taha Muhammad Ali