Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Ethnic Paris Cookbook

First I have two confessions to make...

One - I'm a real sucker for beautiful food photographs in cookbooks. In fact, I usually turn my nose up at books without any. I did say USUALLY...this book is definitely an exception to my ridiculous rule.

Two - I've been to Paris three times over the years and never ate anywhere but at traditional "French" bistros. Shame on me! Don't get me wrong, I really love ethnic cooking and living in Toronto was definitely a treat from that perspective, being the most multi-cultural city in North America. I could pretend I was in Africa, India, China, Greece, Portugal or....well, you get the idea.

But I never thought of Paris other than French history, architecture, art and, of course, food.

Until now that is. Let me say in one sentence...The Ethnic Paris Cookbook is a joy to read and an even greater joy to cook from.

Not only are the recipes fantastic, with simple, easy to follow instructions, but the charming illustrations, wonderfully written notes on the various cultures that find their home in Paris neighborhoods make me want to take another trip to Paris and bypass every place I visited before.

The Maghreb – Morocco, Algeria & Tunisia; Indochine - Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China; Africa – Cameroon, Senegal, plus the West Indies and the Caribbean; Middle East -Lebanon and Syria are reflective of early French presence in those countries, and there’s also a presence of Japanese culture as well. So regardless of which culinary adventures attract you, you’ll find them here.

The book is divided into those cuisines, with each section having an intro that discusses cultural links to France, a history of immigration, and more important to a foodie…where the restaurants are and…since many of you won’t be able to head off to Paris anytime soon, lots of places to find resources, with phone numbers and links to their websites. You'll find every delicacy from appetizers through desserts.

Trust me when I say, I’ll be cooking from this book often. Here are the first two dishes I’ve tried and will be making often.

Lamb with Ras el Hanout and Honey

Zaalouk – Moroccan Eggplant Salad

Now that I’ve tried a couple of dishes from the Maghreb...lots more are lined up - like the Kabylia lamb and semolina dumplings, plus some Tunisian Honey Cake... Should I head off to Indochine...I’ve earmarked a spicy Laotian chicken curry and some Vietnamese Pho.

Or should I head out to Japan...the grilled sea scallops with sake & soy sauce, sound wonderful, for a twist on the traditional French Coquilles St. Jacques.

Africa, West Indies and the Caribbean are tempting...spicy shrimp rougail, chicken curry from the island of Reunion where cari (curry) traditionally contains only one single spice – turmeric, so this dish will be very different than the one I’m going to try from Laos.

Or perhaps the Middle East calls first. I know my daughter will love the cigares au fromage – rolled filo pastry stuffed with haloumi.

Well, I'm off to the kitchen and will just flip a coin.

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