Thursday, January 05, 2006

The New American Cooking: Cookbook Review

When foreign students used to come stay at my parents house they always asked about American food. Defining American food is a challenge because the country is so large and diverse and founded by immigrants. What makes American food American anyway? Recipes with American ingredients? Recipes created in America? Dishes eaten by Americans? You've got to admit, it's a tough call. But author Joan Nathan really comes through in her latest cookbook, The New American Cooking.

"New" American cooking because unlike many other cookbooks, this one really focuses on our current cuisine. Nathan includes American recipes like Hoisin Roasted Chicken, Blue Cornmeal Pine Nut Pancakes and Fajitas because the ingredients are widely available, the cooking reflects regionality and because these are popular dishes now. You couldn't ask for a better representation of American cuisine.

For someone looking to learn about American food this is a great book. It would also make a great gift for someone living outside the United States. Nathan actually traversed the country seeking out restaurant chefs, farmers and home cooks to find out what they were cooking and to tell their stories. She offers up a huge range of articles, from Zingerman's Deli, Hawaiian chocolate, cooking Iraqi food in Virginia, chiles in Chimyo, Amish cooking, to the Slanted Door and the Edible Schoolyard.

There are 280 recipes in the book and for the most part, they are not very difficult to make and use ingredients from all over the country. Some recipes I plan on trying include Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Lasagna, Union Square Cafe's Tuna Burger and Memelitas (tortillas topped with refried beans and salsa)