Tomes from home, abroad

  • Article by: BETH DOOLEY , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 5, 2012 - 6:02 PM

Cooks will do many things for the perfect recipe or just-right ingredient, including going to the ends of the Earth.

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Cauliflower seasoned with miso and toasted sesame seeds.

Photo: Japanese Farm Food

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With this season's books, a cook can travel the world, visit our country's urban farms, or stay home and cook. These new volumes serve up interesting reading and delicious food.

Bring the world into your kitchen

"Food Lover's Guide to the World: Experience the Great Global Cuisines," by the editors of Lonely Planet (Lonely Planet, $39.99). This movable feast packs a dizzying array of personal stories by celebrity writers and chefs (i.e. Mark Bittman, Eric Ripert), travel notes, restaurant reviews, festival calendars, sumptuous and spontaneous photos. The armchair traveler in me visited Paris through its cheeses, Mumbai through its street food, Bangkok through its curry. Suits me; I travel to eat.

"Japanese Farm Food," by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $35). This California native fell in love with a Japanese organic egg farmer as well as the country and its food. Her lush photos and fascinating stories evoke a rich life on her husband's ancestral land in rural Japan, where she is raising a family and teaching cooking. Singleton Hachisu's food seems at once familiar yet exotic, and her recipes are simple and interesting. I will make the cauliflower with miso and sesame and the beef and onions simmered with ginger, again and again. In her hands, even homemade tofu seems easy and well worth the effort.

"Memories of Philippine Kitchens: Stories and Recipes From Far and Near," by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $40). Revised and updated, this collection evokes the complex interplay of cultures in Filipino cuisine -- Chinese, Spanish, Mexican and American. The authors, a husband-wife team, have introduced the United States to the food of their native Philippines through several award-winning restaurants, most notably the Purple Yam in Brooklyn. This volume is updated from an earlier edition, the first of its kind. Best are the stories of childhood favorites and memories of events -- "the wedding of the century" -- with interesting and accessible recipes for such favorites as pan-fried dumplings and a beautifully simple mango tart.

"The Hakka Cookbook: Chinese Soul Food From Around the World," by Linda Lau Anusasananan (University of California Press, $39.95). A blend of scholarly investigation and personal memoir, the author illuminates the haunting history and the culture of the Hakka, or "guest people" of China and shares her journey researching this nomadic clan. Originally from China's Central Plain, the Hakka have migrated through the continent and around the globe -- Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada and Peru. The author defines Hakka diaspora cuisine with recipes for soy-braised meats, stir-fried vegetables and steamed dumplings, dishes that are earthy and robust, China's version of "soul food."

"Hiroko's American Kitchen: Cooking With Japanese Flavors," by Hiroko Shimbo (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $24.99). The key to Japanese cooking, Shimo says, is the stocks and sauces. I liked her simple kelp stock well enough to enjoy with just a few fresh vegetables simmered it. It's also the base for a winning cauliflower and leek soup. The two stocks and four basic sauces are the foundation for a variety of easy traditional soups, stir-fries, salads and entrees.

"The Chinese Takeout Cookbook: Quick and Easy Dishes to Prepare at Home," by Diana Kuan (Ballantine Books, $30). As a kid, I loved Friday nights and Chinese takeout and I'm a long-standing member of General Tso's fan club. Though I've never had the yen to make takeout at home, this pretty book might get me to try. Kuan, a food blogger and cooking teacher, offers up easy recipes for egg rolls, dumplings, sweet and sour pork, fried rice, etc., and tells us where they came from and how they became American classics.

A Mad Mix: the '60s, Vegan Cooking, Urban Farms

"The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Sixties Cookbook: More Than 100 Retro Recipes for the Modern Cook," Rick Rodgers and Heather Maclean (Running Press, $20). The authors have spiffed up well-worn American comforts (i.e. buttermilk marinated fried chicken, flaming Baked Alaska). But, Tuna Noodle Casserole -- really, you need a recipe? The sidebars put recipes into social/historical context with bits about Jackie Kennedy's Parisian chef, or why fondue was such a hit.

"Urban Farms," by Sarah C. Rich, photography by Matthew Benson (Abrams, $30). From Boston's ReVison Urban Farm to L.A.'s Wattles Community Garden, Rich covers the urban agriculture movement growing across the land. Glorious photos, profiles of local food heroes and stories of these quirky farms all help document urban ag's positive impact on education, the economy and public health. More than spaces to grow vegetables, these ambitious and quirky enterprises are bringing people together, strengthening neighborhoods and bringing communities literally back to life.

"Forks Over Knives - The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant-Based Eating All Through the Year," by Del Sroufe with desserts by Chandra Moskowitz (The Experiment Press, $18.95). This full-color and comprehensive companion to the documentary "Forks Over Knives" is a guide to eating a plant-based diet that eschews meat, dairy, eggs, fish and any kind of fat or oil. The recipes are easy; the regime is not.

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