By Jen Rose Smith,
Left: Ten Speed Press; center: Bloomsbury Publishing; right: Quadrille
“Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore,” by Darra Goldstein, left; “Coconut & Sambal: Recipes From My Indonesian Kitchen,” by Lara Lee, center; “Red Sands: Reportage and Recipes Through Central Asia, from Hinterland to Heartland,” by Caroline Eden, right.
On a gray afternoon last November, I sat down to a meal that evoked Istanbul cafes where just the year before I had feasted at the edge of the sun-streaked Bosporus. Dried sumac speckled a plate of shaved radishes and fennel, and the main course was lamb ragout, ladled over satiny eggplant puree. It was Thanksgiving dinner, 2020.
After canceling a planned gathering for pandemic-obvious reasons, I ignored suggestions for wan, scaled-down menus featuring chicken legs and miniature pie for two. Instead I reached for a Turkish cookbook, trading holiday traditions for a culinary voyage.
As my unused passport gathers ever more dust, food’s power to summon faraway places to my Vermont kitchen has only grown. I’ve tucked into crema Catalana and crispy Persian rice, and unearthed the battered copper coffeepot I bought in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Of course, one cook’s wanderlust is another’s nostalgia. London-based chef Lara Lee finds each in the chicken nasi goreng recipe included in the new cookbook “Coconut & Sambal: Recipes From My Indonesian Kitchen,” an island-hopping culinary tour of Indonesia. Her Indonesian grandmother made the fried-rice dish a childhood staple, but Lee’s version comes from a culinary research trip to the Javanese city of Yogyakarta.