Jeff Koehler does justice to another regionally complex country in SPAIN: Recipes and Traditions From the Verdant Hills of the Basque Country to the Coastal Waters of Andalucia (Chronicle Books, $40). The author, a food writer who has lived in Spain for many years, focuses on roots cooking, the simple, flavorful dishes that warm Spanish hearts.
Koehler is an expert guide, providing highly informative headnotes to each recipe, often explaining regional variations in the same recipe and suggesting some clever tips. In his recipe for clams with oloroso sherry, for example, he suggests substituting dry white wine with a little brandy if sherry isn’t at hand. These pages abound in seductively rustic dishes like pork baked in a salt crust and served with fruit compote, chestnut purée or a blue cheese sauce.
I am very pleased to be in the November issue of Condé Nast Traveler, offering some of my top picks for eating in Marrakech. (I would add tangia as #6.) Turn to page 48 in your copy to read it, or click here.
I have a new opinion piece up on Zester Daily about the pleasures of discovering Morocco and what drove me on, curve after curve.
You can find the whole piece here. It begins like this:
While it is often easy to oversimplify the unknown, or at least the unfamiliar — a place, a cuisine, not to mention a culture — the real pleasure in travel or eating comes from discovering the unexpected and exploring the complexities and contradictions that we unfailingly encounter. When we scratch beneath the obvious and accessible, those polished but rarely three-dimensional surfaces found in glossy magazines or mid-century travel books, we find the essential elements that profoundly inform on the place. We need to sift a bit through the layers to find its truer essence.
Like any number of countries and their magnificent kitchens — Turkey, Mexico and even Spain spring to mind — Morocco frequently suffers a simplified fate, considered by many to consist of a largely homogeneous landscape and handful of familiar (though generally misunderstood) dishes.
There is a review of MOROCCO in the September-October issue of Saudi Aramco World, the intelligent, insightful, and always interesting publication on items from around the Islamic world.
Morocco: A Culinary Journey With Recipes From the Spice-Scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora. 2012, Chronicle Books, 978-0-81187-738-1, $29.95 hb. What better way to introduce a culture and a people than painting a vivid picture of their culinary art? Jeff Koehler does exactly that, offering a colorful and mouth- watering introduction to the cookery of Morocco while diving into the historical, cultural and social contexts of each recipe he presents. Contrary to the title’s southern Morocco orientation, Koehler thoroughly explores the cuisine—or, as he puts it, “the cuisines”—of the country as he narrates his wanderings from the Spanish-influenced northwest to the Saharan fringes of the deep south, with stops at many suqs and kitchens in between. Highly eclectic and diverse, the nature of Moroccan cooking is well captured in writing and photographs that blend sweet and savory and mix in a variety of spices in recipes such as bistilla or veal-shank tagine with pears, to name just two. This book can be an excellent resource for the curious cook and savvy foodie alike. —Manal Bougazzoul (SO12)