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From the time he was small boy in Cleveland, Andrew Carmellini has had a love affair with food. Beginning with the down-home Polish dishes cooked by his mom, road food introduced by his father on trips to Florida, and recipes he cooked himself from Betty Crocker, Carmellini discovered early that America embraces a world of flavors.
The recipes in his American Flavor do indeed reflect the great diversity of American foods, running the gamut from the universal (peanut butter cookies and biscuits) to the ethnic (Greek lamb stew and arroz verde). Each recipe comes with a story, and most include a photograph, a tip, and/or additional information about a technique or ingredients.
I particularly liked learning about where the recipes came from. Some are family recipes (his mom's borscht), some are from his restaurant (crab on toast), some are based on dishes he's had when dining out (Korean steak), and some are from friends (Susie's beans). Carmellini is the first to tell you that the ethnic dishes in American Flavor are not exactly what you find when you travel abroad. He's all about how foods are interpreted in this part of the world and by modern tastes.
Almost all of the ingredients will be easy to find in any decent grocery store, especially in America. The recipe instructions are quite conversational, and Carmellini provides advice on the fly, just when you need it:
Transfer the chiles to a blender; add the chipotles. . . . Hold down the top of the blender with a kitchen towel to avoid hot-liquid disasters, and blend everything together on high speed for 30 seconds, till you have a thick paste. The paste will be bitter, but don't worry about that: when you cook it with the meat, it will mellow out. (p. 132)Any reasonably experienced cook will have success with American Flavor. Carmelllini's style makes you feel as if he were standing right next to you in the kitchen. You won't feel lost or alone.
The types of dishes will appeal to most cooks and their families. The flavors are bright, tasty, and just a little bit different without being too fancy or too strange for everyday eating. To give you an idea of what you'll find, here are some recipes I'm hoping to try:
- Lamb Chili with Chickpeas and Raita
- Braised Beef Short Ribs with Guinness
- Oven-Roasted Vegetables Glazed with Apple Cider, Dried Cranberries, and Pumpkin Seeds
- Tomato Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
- Heirloom Zucchini Bake with Fresh Tomato, Mozz, and Basil
Vegetarian alert: Although there are several vegetarian dishes, especially in the soup, salad, and sides chapters, vegans will be disappointed. I suggest that vegetarians read through the book before buying.
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