Looking for adventure? You don t have to be a traveler armed with maps and guide books. Bring adventure to your kitchen with a cookbook. Eight cookbooks from around the world and the United States bring fascinating foods, recipes, and stories. The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking by Susanna Hoffman (Workman, $19.99) offers a rich tapestry of food and adventure amidst Greek history, cuisine, language, and customs. The author has lived on and off for 30 years in Greece; the recipes developed with chef and cookbook writer Victoria Wise reflect traditional dishes and contemporary tastes.
Among the 325 recipes there s Olive Flatbread, Roasted Lamb Shanks (with garlic and thyme), and Fried Cheese Cubes (Saganaki). The Armenian Table by Victoria Jenanyan Wise (St. Martin s Press, $29.95) is a family history through a cookbook. Armenia, which is now in northern Turkey, was the heritage of the author, whose grandparents were immigrants to this country pre-World War II.
Recipes include lavosh, a yeast dough cracker bread specific to Armenian cuisine, and Armenian Moussaka, made with potato instead of the Greek tradition of eggplant Indian cookery has influenced culinary traditions around the globe, according to Madhur Jaffrey in From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail (Potter, $35). The author has tasted curry while traveling on six continents, which yields a fascinating story of food, history, and culture. Enticing recipes include Sumatran Lamb Curry from Indonesia, Red Beef Curry from Sri Lanka, Burmese Chicken-Coconut Soup from Myanmar, Lobster in Yellow Curry Sauce from Thailand, Vietnamese Pork with Lemongrass, Lamb Shanks Braised in Yogurt Sauce from Pakistan, and a beef curry from Japan as well as curry in the United Kingdom. Carol Field focuses on the Italian tradition of merende, a between-meals food that features favorites such as pizza and focaccia in Italy in Small Bites (Harper Collins, $24.95). Sputini is the mid-morning snack which can be as simple as a walnut-and-raisin studded coffee cake, while merende, which is a mid-afternoon tradition might be a wedge of onion frittata or artichoke tart, a crunchy pillow of fried dough served with figs or prosciutto or sweet peppers mounded on a slice of rustic country bread.
More than a snack, but less than a meal, these small bites get Italians through to the next meal. Even the names of the 150 recipes have an Italian lilt. Cooking of Southwest France is in vogue. Not found on maps is Gascony, which is more gastronomical and cultural in definition than it is geographical. Kate Hill, who has lived for 16 years on a 100-year-old canal barge in Southwestern France, has written A Culinary Journey in Gascony (Ten Speed Press, $17.95).
Recipes culled from local farm wives and chefs who have welcomed her into their homes and kitchens include The Mate s Tomato Tart, Wild Mushroom Pie, and Summer Fruit Custard Tart. The photographs alone will have you setting sail for France.
Closer to home
Cookbooks specializing in regional American cooking are just as popular as books on international foods. Coastal Cooking with John Shields: 125 of the Best Recipes from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts, and Hawaii (Broadway Books, $ 32.50) is the companion book to the public television series debuting in early spring 2005.
From Colonial Williamsburg Oyster Stew to Bar Harbor Lobster Bisque, from Mission Street Fish Taquitos to Miss Liliane s Haitian-Style Flounder, from Honolulu Chinese-Style Roast Duck to Old-Fashioned Hush Puppies, these recipes and regional photographs will make your mouth water. I just replaced my Cooking with Mickey Volume II cookbook with the updated version. The most requested recipes from Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, and Disney Cruise Line are featured in the new Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs (Disney, $19.95).
From Kona Cafe comes Tonga Toast. The Blue Bayou Restaurant offers the Monte Cristo Sandwich and Bananas Foster Shortcake. Recipes from the Disney Cruise Line include Eggs Benedict and Soft-Shell Crab Tempura. In 1753, Senor Geronimo Lopez bought some land in La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assisi.
He built an adobe house for himself, his wife, and 12 children. The town has become Santa Fe, and that hacienda has been found by Cliff Skoglund, a former waiter from New Work. From the nationally acclaimed Geronimo restaurant comes the cookbook Geronimo: Fine Dining in Santa Fe by Cliff Skoglund and Eric DiStefano (Ten Speed Press, $50), who is the head chef.
Signature dishes (and recipes) include Grilled Rack of Lamb with Creamy Compote of Fingerling Potatoes, Bacon, and Sweet Corn, and White Peach Shortcake with Warm Buttermilk Biscuits and Honey Crema.
You could really call each of these cookbooks a history lesson through food and recipes.