You might be thinking you are the sole human without any vacation plans. Palm tree-laden pictures are popping up all over social media and you’ve got nothing.
Ready to travel far, far away while sticking to your work or camp carpool schedule? Pack your grocery bags instead of the suitcases; here are five books guaranteed to take you on an adventure in the kitchen.
By Andrea Nguyen
Ten Speed Press, $24.99
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could replicate the flavors of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants until I cooked from Nguyen’s fabulous book. Nguyen easily organizes your Vietnamese pantry through her well-explained ingredients list, including brand suggestions, most available at your local market.
I more than successfully navigated my way through char siu chicken, a savory-sweet preparation that seamlessly translates for the summer grill. The sizzling rice crepes, filled with leftover protein from the amazing rice noodle salad bowl recipe, plus mushrooms and bean sprouts, made my doubtful teen a believer. And I was ridiculously proud of my gingery wontons that both looked and tasted picture-perfect. Every dish I tackled worked out so well I felt giddy. The umami garlic noodles have become a repeat weeknight favorite, as has the chicken, lemongrass, and sweet potato curry. Vietnamese Food Any Day has inspired me to keep jars of homemade Nuoc Cham dipping sauce and any day Viet pickle in the fridge to add a bit of Vietnam to my every day, any day meals.
By José Pizarro
Hardie Grant, $40
Pizarro, a Spanish chef and restaurateur based in London, has written several books focused on Spanish regional cooking with simple, authentic preparation. Andalusia has cuisine culled from Spain’s farmland, mountains, and abundant coastline.
Highlighting fresh ingredients and using traditional recipes often offered with an interesting twist, Andalusia has chapters covering meat, fish, vegetables, and desserts. It also includes menu suggestions and a chapter on restaurants to try in the region.
While there are recipes for rabbit, Moorish wild boar, slow-cooked pork cheeks with Oloroso sherry, and oxtail croquetas for the adventurous carnivore, I was particularly excited by the seafood options: prawns baked in salt with mango, chilli, and coriander salsa; espeto, a simple preparation of charcoal-grilled sardines seasoned with herbs and olive oil; clams with chorizo; and albondigas de Semana Santa, a salt cod meatball stew with chickpeas and beans typically eaten at Easter.
By Alana Kysar
Ten Speed Press, $30
According to Kysar, the aloha spirit, which embodies “love and affection, kindness and compassion, mercy and sympathy, pity and grace,” guides the recipes in her book. I say the world needs more aloha spirit.
Western, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and Filipino cuisine have all influenced Hawaiian cooking. Hawaii also happens to sell more Spam per capita than any other state and Aloha Kitchen offers two recipes: soy-glazed Spam musubi and Spam fried rice.
The book covers recipes for pupu (appetizers), sides, proteins, noodles, snacks, and drinks, and while all seem fabulous, I happily fixated on the sweets and sauces. The creamy Asian dressing, made with a mayo and sesame oil base, improved everything dipped into it. Guava dressing made a simple salad seem tropical and exotic. There’s pink guava cake, macadamia nut pie, shave ice, and malasadas, a Portuguese doughnut filled with a passion fruit pastry cream.
And then there’s the butter mochi — it became the seminal moment in this stellar book for me. Sweet, a little salty, and with a coconut crunch on top, this smooth, slightly sticky rice flour sweet magically covers every taste sensation and texture.
By Caroline Eden
Quadrille Publishing, $35
Black Sea is more of a history lesson with recipes and beautiful photography. The book is meant to be read from beginning to end, following the culinary journey as it travels around the Black Sea from Odessa to Trabzon, with chapters arranged by coastal stops. Eden’s book almost reads as a culinary novel.
Recipes include food from many countries: Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, and Russia. From the Jewish-influenced Odessa, a recipe for Black Sesame Challah and a coleslaw with pickled radishes. There is a recipe for Mark Twain’s debauched ice cream, representing Odessa’s rich literary history. From Constanta, a raspberry buttermilk tart uses the fruit so popular in Romania. From Bulgaria, a bulgur wheat, grape, and walnut salad shows off the region’s bounty, as the coastal Black Sea region grows one-third of the country’s grapes for wine.
By Julia Reed
There’s a party amid the pages of Julia Reed’s New Orleans; decadent, delicious, old school entertaining, replete with cocktails, iconic recipes, and playlists. Themed party menus comprise the book’s chapters: “A Festival of Strawberries,” “Restaurant Tribute,” “Gumbo Lunch,” and “Mardi Gras Brunch” among them.
Looking for New Orleans standards like jambalaya, crawfish maque choux, and red beans and rice? You can find them all in “The Classics” chapter with the Commander’s Palace’s whiskey mash to wash it all down. The “Restaurant Tribute” chapter pays homage to famed New Orleans eateries, the youngest making its debut in 1905; think crawfish cardinale tarts, Patrick’s Sazerac, and Galatoire’s famous “table sauce.”
You can even find a bit of Philadelphia in Julia Reed’s New Orleans. Georges Perrier’s crab cakes are represented in the “Reveillon” chapter, Nawlin’s style with a Meaux mustard beurre blanc. Rounding out the menu are tartlets of oysters and Beth’s banana tarte tatin with brown sugar rum ice cream.
Makes about 1 cup.
Note: Lime juice can turn the sauce slightly bitter when left overnight. If making the sauce ahead and refrigerating it for up to 2 weeks, add the lime juice, vinegar, if using, and add-ins before serving.
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar or 3 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (see Note)
2 teaspoons unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar, optional
3 to 4 tablespoons fish sauce (see Note)
Optional add-ins: 1 or 2 Thai or serrano chiles, thinly sliced (keep seeds intact); or 2 to 3 teaspoons chile garlic sauce or sambal oelek; 1 minced large garlic clove; 1/2 small carrot, cut into thin matchsticks or coarsely grated (see Note).
In small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar (or 3 tablespoons maple sugar), 3 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 cup warm water. Taste the mixture and, if needed, add remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (or 1 tablespoon maple syrup) and/or 1 tablespoon lime juice. Dilute with more water if you go too far. If there’s an unpleasant tart-bitter edge, add the vinegar to fix the flavor.
Add the fish sauce to the bowl; how much you use depends on the brand and your own taste. Aim for a bold, forward finish that’s a little gutsy. (Keep in mind that this sauce typically dresses dishes that include unsalted ingredients such as lettuce and herbs, which will need an extra flavor lift.) If desired, add the chiles, garlic and/or carrot. (Or offer the chiles on the side if diners are sensitive to the heat.) The sauce can sit at room temperature for up to 8 hours until serving.
Set the sauce at the table so diners may help themselves, or portion it out in small bowls in advance of serving.
Reprinted with permission from “Vietnamese Food Any Day” by Andrea Nguyen. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House Inc.
Serves 6 to 8
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup soy sauce (shoyu)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
In a large bowl, whisk together the ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, ginger and garlic until well combined. Reserve 1/3 cup of the mixture for later. To the remaining mixture, add the chicken and stir to evenly coat it. You can transfer this mixture with the chicken to a gallon-size zip-top bag or simply cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours, turning the chicken at least once.
After marinating the chicken, oil your grill grates well. Heat the grill to medium and grill the chicken for 5 to 7 minutes on each side until cooked through, basting it with the reserved marinade after you turn it.