Book review of Charlotte Puckette and Olivia Kiang-Snaije’s, The Ethnic Paris Cookbook.
When I think about food from Paris, I tend to imagine typically and widely known French food. The Ethnic Paris Cookbook shatters my perception of French food and is the first book to focus on the many wonderful ethnic foods and cultures also representative of Paris, from Morocco to Laos.
The varied and interesting flavors seeping into the French cooking are attributed to emigrants from former French colonies and are changing the world’s perception of how we define ‘French food’. Authors, Charlotte Puckette and Olivia Kiang-Snaije, both transplants to Paris met each other while dropping their kids off at school. They both shared a love of ethnic food in Paris and felt a tribute to these foods was long overdue.
With more than 100 recipes, the book is arranged by regions and covers appetizers, main courses, and desserts. The 250 page cookbook offers easy and interesting recipes, each recipe selected and adapted from internationally renowned chefs and local food lovers.
Couscous in the Cafeteria
Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia
Bo Bun Business
Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and China
Waiting for Wagashi
Africa Sur Seine
Cameroon, Senegal, The West Indies, and the Caribbean
The Best Mezze West of Beirut
Lebanon and Syria
With source suggestions and substitute recommendations
And although the book does not contain photos, it is colorfully illustrated by Dina Diwan, a Lebanese artist now based in Paris. I hesitated slightly when opening the book, as I enjoy looking at photos (sometimes more than the recipes). However, once I started reading the recipes and background information on the various ethnic cuisines, the illustrations suddenly seemed to fit. The drawings complemented the subject matter and brought each page to life.
In addition, throughout the book you are provided with information about specific restaurants specializing in a given dish or ethnic cuisine. Addresses are provided, so the cookbook serves as an ad hoc travel guide to help you find great meals throughout Paris so you too can have a culinary journey.
I decided to try out a Lebanese recipe for Lentils with Bulgar (M’jaddara) from page 218. And although the recipe turned out well, I was disappointed that one of the seemingly key ingredients (1/2 bunch chopped mint) was not mentioned in the directions. I realized this as I neared the end of my cooking and wondered at which point the mint was supposed to be used. I stirred it in during the last step where the olive oil is added.
1 cup coarse bulgar
1 1/3 cup brown lentils
1/2 teaspoon 7-spice powder
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
1/2 bunch mint leaves, chopped
Rinse bulgar and then soak in warm water for 10 minutes, drain.
Rinse lentils and combine in a medium saucepan with 4 cups cold salted water and the 7-spice powder. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Skim off any foam that rise to the surface. Stir in the bulgar and cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until the bulgar and lentils are tender.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until soft and beginning to color. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
When the lentil and bulgar mixture is cooked, drain any excess liquid, put into a large bowl, and toss with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with fried onions and serve with garnishes on the side.
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