You don't have to step outside your own home for a culinary adventure. Just curl up with a good cookbook or book about food.
Clotilde Dusoulier is an expert on the food scene in Paris. On her blog, www.chocolateandzucchini.com, she discusses the hottest restaurants and food shops. She writes from the 10th arrondissement of Paris, from her apartment at the heart of Montremarte.
In Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris (Broadway, $17.95), she guides readers through all 20 arrondissements of Paris, pointing out the edible highlights, from dining and food shopping to local favorites. This travel-size guide has advice for the savvy visitor, including dress codes for the eight categories of restaurants. For example, lunch restaurants, where you order and pay at the counter, are "come as you are." At Neo bistro places, the ambiance is casual and the dress code is casual-chic.
She also includes table manners, tipping, and budget dining. "Beware of specials," she writes. "Daily specials can come at a premium."
If Paris is your destination in the coming year, slip this book in your luggage.
Spain and the World Table from the Culinary Institute of America (DK, $35) is a book for your kitchen. It begins with tapas, Spanish and American small bites, with sangria and bocadillos (similar to a crostini). Imagine Mission Figs Stuffed with Spanish Blue Cheese, Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms, and Tortilla Espanola (the classic potato and onion frittata). The soups of Spain range from gazpacho to sopa de albondigas.
The seafood section includes salt cod, which is said to be the quintessential Spanish fish. Lentil Stew, Lamb and Roasted Pepper Ragout, and Paella show the diversity of the Spanish table. Desserts include Mission Fig Flan, Churros (Spain's answer to doughnuts), and Spiced Almond Brittle.
The Spice Merchant's Daughter by Christina Arokiasamy (Potter, $29.95) adapts an ethnic cuisine for the American kitchen. The author's great-great-grandfather was the captain of a merchant ship owned by the English East India Co. that transported spices to and from India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. She was raised in Malaysia, but received culinary training at Hyatt Regency and Four Seasons resorts.
The book has recipes for curry powders and other spice blends. Appetizers include Lemon Pepper Wings, Miniature Spring Rolls (fried), and Chicken Satay. In addition to plenty of vegetable dishes and entrees such as Basil Chicken, Lamb Korma, and Braised Pork in Caramelized Soy Sauce, there also are curry dishes. Desserts include Cinnamon Chocolate Cake, Coconut Flan, and Black Rice Pudding made with coconut milk.
Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China by Jeffery Alfrod and Naomi Duguid (Artisan, $40) gives a fascinating look at regional foods in China. "Three-fifths of the land area we now call China is historically the home of people who are not ethnically Chinese," write the authors, who draw a food map focusing on the outlying regions.
Cooks from North America will find fresh ingredients, Asian vegetables, simple seasonings, and dry ingredients that are familiar. Pressed Tofu with Scallions and Ginger comes from the Dai people. Onion and Pomegranate Salad is a Central Asian salad. Chile-Hot Bright Green Soybeans with Garlic, which is from the Bai people, usually is made with fresh fava beans known as broad beans. Chicken Pulao with Pumpkin comes from the Uighurs.
Indeed, this book is a geography lesson. You can travel the world in your kitchen.