by Marcus Samuelsson
Wiley - 2009
Buy it on Amazon
The youngest chef ever to receive two three-star ratings from the New York Times, Marcus Samuelsson is known for his diversified cuisine. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden by adoptive parents, Samuelsson -- drawing on his own unique upbringing -- has created an homage to the cultural origins of American cooking.
Samuelsson shares more than 300 recipes in his half-cookbook, half-travelogue that showcases the ethnic influences on American cuisine, from Pickled Herring Hot Dogs to down-home Boiled Peanuts; Jerk-Spiced Catfish with Green Papaya Salad to Latkes with Apple-Horseradish Sauce. It's quickly apparent his take on American cuisine isn't the stereotypical apple pie and bacon cheeseburger.
See what we tested and find out whether the book's worth buying after the jump.
Takeaway tips: Chapters feature recipes for every type of meal, ranging from "Breakfast and Brunch," "Breads and Sandwiches," to "Small Plates" and "Staples" to "Desserts and Drinks."
America has long been identified as a melting pot and this book is certainly a tribute to all immigrant groups. If unfamiliar with ethnic cuisine, this is a wonderful resource of flavors and ingredients from cultures across the globe.
Quality of pictures: The book shows off dazzling food and travel photographs documenting Samuelsson's journeys across America as he uncovered the tastes of a nation. The book contains more than 300 recipes, so it was somewhat expected that not every recipe would have a picture -- however, for the visually stimulated cook, many recipes lack accompanying imagery. With the likes of Spicy Dill Popcorn, Tamarind-Glazed Ham and Banana Bread Pudding with Hazelnut Kulfi, a reader may yearn for a visual reference before diving in.
We tested: Avocado-Banana Smoothie and My Mother's Spaghetti with Peas
The smoothie combined the rich, velvety texture of bananas and avocado -- an unlikely pairing that turned out to be filling, healthy and a beautiful green color. Samuelsson explains in a brief recipe introduction that it was inspired by the Indian yogurt-based lassi. Definitely one of the less complicated recipes in the book, the eight ingredients -- including freshly grated ginger and lime juice -- were thrown into a blender and pureed until smooth. An easy treat that Samuelsson suggests could be augmented further with some rum or cooked tapioca.
As for My Mother's Spaghetti, it was just that: something any kid would want their mother to make. Rich with pancetta and peas, it is reminiscent of spaghetti carbonara. On a cold, rainy day, this dish left us clicking our heels under the table saying, "There's no place like home."
Worth the investment: Following up on his exploration of Scandinavian and African cuisine, the Ethiopian-born Swedish-raised chef pulls up a chair at another continent's table. If you're a novice cook , a majority of the recipes are indeed quite ambitious. However, most of the techniques are doable -- it's the recipes themselves that are daunting with somewhat lengthy ingredient lists accompanying most. But if you have an adventuresome side (and an abundant spice rack), these dishes will bring cuisine from all corners of the world into your kitchen. In fact, despite the name of the book, most of the recipes are poignantly ethnic. We're only left wondering what's next for Chef Samuelsson?