10 December 2011

Weekend Cooking: Review: American Flavor by Andrew Carmellini

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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
I did make two recipes from the book (and forgot to take photos -- oops!): the Bacon-Chipotle Cornbread and the Swiss Chard with Dried Apricots and Sunflower Seeds. Both were easy to put together and won two thumbs up in the BFR household. Because the recipe directions are so chatty, I'm not going to share one here but you can see some of the lovely photographs from the book and videos of Andrew Carmellini cooking on his website.

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.

Beth Fish Reads is proud to showcase Ecco books as a featured imprint on this blog. For more information about Ecco, please read the introductory note from Vice President / Associate Publisher Rebecca Bressler, posted here on July 15, 2011. Find your next great read by clicking on Ecco in the scroll-down topics/labels list in my sidebar and by visiting Ecco books on Facebook and following them on Twitter.

American Flavor at Powell's
American Flavor at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, 2011
ISBN-13: 9780061963292
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Marg 12/10/11, 6:37 AM  

Cool. More cooking videos. The little chef and I like sitting down and watching cooking videos on Youtube together!

TheBookGirl 12/10/11, 6:56 AM  

I like the sound of these recipes -- different without being too out there. That's about the eating speed of this house, lol. I do appreciate your advice to veggies though. I think I will try and see if my library has it so I can see if it has enough recipes for me.

Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook 12/10/11, 7:12 AM  

I enjoyed his first book, so I am sure I'd enjoy this one. The recipes sound delicious. going to check the links out now, thanks!

caite 12/10/11, 7:23 AM  

I guess on his mom's side.

and in my past I suffered a hot liquid blender mishap. that can be painful and quite the mess!

Chinoiseries 12/10/11, 7:49 AM  

The cookbook sounds like a very diverse collection of American recipes. I like how it uses ingredients that are easily attainable from local supermarkets and farmer markets. There are so many cookbooks out there that'll have you travel half across town, to several delicatessen, organic and/or ethnic shops to find what you need ;)

Thanks for the non-veggie warning, btw :)

Uniflame 12/10/11, 9:05 AM  

I love the fresh look of the cover! It wouldn't be a book for me probably but the Heirloom Zucchini Bake with Fresh Tomato, Mozz, and Basil sound great! I am kinda curious what this is exactly :)

Anonymous,  12/10/11, 9:40 AM  

Hoping my library will get a copy of this. - Fay

bermudaonion 12/10/11, 9:50 AM  

I love that the recipes include stories about where they come from. I'll have to look for this cookbook.

Beth Hoffman 12/10/11, 9:50 AM  

I must say that this sounds divine --> Oven-Roasted Vegetables Glazed with Apple Cider, Dried Cranberries, and Pumpkin Seeds.

Peggy@Peggy Ann's Post 12/10/11, 10:06 AM  

Sounds very good Beth! Happy cooking!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 12/10/11, 10:08 AM  

You had me at "chipotle." :)

We don't have vegan/vegetarian restrictions here, but I like that you've included that info in your review.

Col (Col Reads) 12/10/11, 10:12 AM  

Wow, lamb chili sounds fabulous. I think I need to put something in the crockpot for dinner. Thanks for the great review!

Zibilee 12/10/11, 10:16 AM  

Crab on toast sounds wonderful and like what I would like to have for lunch! I need this book! Quickly!

(Diane) bookchickdi 12/10/11, 11:40 AM  

Bacon-Chipotle Cornbread sounds delicious. I may have to add it to my Christmas Eve meal.

Margot 12/10/11, 11:54 AM  

I love chatty cookbooks. To me it feels as if the author has invested a lot of themselves in the book and, as you say, as if they are right there with you.

Esme 12/10/11, 12:43 PM  

Once again you have discovered another great book.

Robin M 12/10/11, 3:50 PM  

All the recipes sound yummy! Will have to check it out.

Anonymous,  12/10/11, 5:07 PM  

I am all about the chat, so I'd probably love his instructions!

Sheila (Bookjourney) 12/10/11, 5:19 PM  

I like the mix of recipes: from his mom, from going our, friends, and his own...

Rikki 12/11/11, 5:27 AM  

Thanks for the vegetarian alert. I really appreciate that.

Tam Linsey 12/11/11, 12:37 PM  

I love to explore America's ethnic foods, and a chatty cookbook sounds like the perfect way to do it. Penzey's Spices sends out a catalog with recipes and family stories to go with them that I love! Thanks for the review. I'll check this out.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick 12/11/11, 4:24 PM  

I love how you include a reminder that a vegan may need to rifle through it first before making a choice on purchasing. I am a vegetarian now, but when I was a vegan, I had to make sure I took a close look at every recipe first, and cookbooks had to be reviewed with a scrutinizing eye. These look like some good options for me as the vegetarian, so I'm likely to take a look at this when I'm next in the store. Thanks!

Serena 12/11/11, 8:03 PM  

This [Braised Beef Short Ribs with Guinness] is a recipe I would love to eat...I'll invite myself over your house to try it. LOL Enjoy the cookbook

Christine 12/11/11, 9:12 PM  

I love "chatty" cookbooks as well. They seem so much more educational that way--and personal at the same time. These are the types of cookbooks that I read in my favorite reading chair or in bed at night as if they were novels.

Peaceful Reader 12/11/11, 10:48 PM  

You had me at the front cover, which is very inviting and casual, like "let's have dinner."

I love reading through chatty cookbooks and I'll have to look for this one at my library or maybe as I browse Barnes and Noble for Xmas shopping.

Stacy at The Novel Life 12/11/11, 11:17 PM  

i love just about everything with chipotle and this cookbook sounds simply delish! thanks for the review and recommendation

Michelle 12/12/11, 6:25 AM  

Sounds like there is an eclectic set of recipes in this book. :)

Heather 12/12/11, 5:22 PM  

This sounds like a winner. I love learning the history of a dish. Thanks for sharing this book.

Karen White 12/13/11, 12:18 AM  

Thanks for recommending another yummy cookbook!

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