TRAVERSE CITY — “World cuisine” wasn’t a term when Nancy Krcek Allen went to culinary school in the 1980s.
“I think I had a class on German food and Chinese food and that’s it,” said Allen. “And I was in San Francisco, which was a hotbed of different cultures.”
Now Allen is bringing world cuisine to culinary students around the country through her textbook, “Discovering Global Cuisine.” The 900-page, full-color book was published March 15 by Pearson Prentice Hall and is available to home cooks on Amazon.com and at Brilliant Books.
A chef-educator and food writer based in Leelanau County, Allen spent nearly five years on the textbook, which was designed for culinary school curriculums. It covers the food of 20 countries, including recipes and tips and techniques for making them.
“It’s a great reference book. It has tons of information,” said Allen, who hopes to promote the book to home cooks as well as culinary students. “They might only study three or four cuisines of the 20 but they might take it with them in their work world and they have this wonderful resource.”
A graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Allen first learned to cook globally on her own. Later she studied and traveled with home cooks and chefs including Julie Sahni and Barbara Tropp, award-winning authors, teachers and pioneer chefs credited with introducing Indian and Chinese cuisines to America.
“When I was young, before culinary school, I would cook through an entire cuisine for six months and then not cook it again. That’s how I learned it,” Allen said. “Over the last 20 years there’s just been an explosion of people wanting to eat different flavors. And now it’s just crazy, there’s one after the other.”
In creating the textbook, Allen drew on her experience writing curriculum for the Institute for Culinary Education in New York, where she worked for six years, and on 20 years of teaching cooking privately and at Northwestern Michigan College Extended Education, Chateau Chantal and Petoskey-based Learn Great Foods, among other places. She also did extensive research and recipe testing, from reading to traveling to India to learn more about the country’s food, particularly in the southern region.
Featured countries and their cuisine include the Republic of Georgia, Senegal, Ethiopia, Iran, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Lebanese, Greece and Turkey.
“These are foods that are exciting to me as a chef,” said Allen, who has sampled many of the cuisines on her travels around the world. “They were all chosen because of the traditional timeless techniques and dishes, things people have been eating for centuries. For instance, stuffed cabbage. Probably the first stuffed cabbage dishes were in Greece. I have three recipes for stuffed cabbage: Italian, Greek and Lebanese.”
She said her goal was to incorporate cooks’ voices instead of chefs’ voices since authentic world cuisine originated with home cooks. Accordingly, she tailored the recipes to the way home cooks or caterers would use them, but with ingredients listed by weight, piece and volume, when appropriate, so that the recipes can be easily varied and multiplied for chef use. Yields are given by weight, volume and servings.
Allen said the textbook originally was intended to be 600 pages with black and white photos, some by Benzie County photographer Brian Confer. But after the manuscript received high marks in three peer reviews and one recipe testing, the publisher changed the plan.
Several of the recipes were tested in the World Cuisine course at Northwestern Michigan College’s Great Lakes Culinary Institute. Director Fred Laughlin said the institute plans to implement the textbook in the course beginning with the spring 2014 semester.
“It’s hard finding good world cuisine textbooks and this one seems pretty comprehensive and pretty well written,” Laughlin said. “A lot of them seem more like a quilt, where someone has pieced together recipes from different books. This one you can sense there’s a continuity, a theme to it.”
Allen recommends that cooks new to global cuisine should start by simply picking up a cookbook and reading it, then asking for help at the grocery or specialty store to navigate the maze of unfamiliar ingredients.
“If you go there with your cookbook or a recipe, these people are so nice. They want to help,” she said. “It’s an adventure. To me it’s armchair travel.”
She said cooks should read a recipe at least twice before they gather the ingredients and should taste several times during its preparation.
“The biggest mistakes that I see people make is, number one, they don’t read the recipe fully. They stop at the ingredients. And then they don’t taste the food, so they don’t use enough salt. I think it’s because they don’t trust their taste buds. You cook for yourself first and others second. And if you make it so it will taste good to you, it will taste good to others.”
Allen, Laughlin, culinary chefs and students will celebrate the release of the textbook with a round-the-world tasting preview of “Discovering Global Cuisines.” The event — from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 10 — will take place at Lobdell’s on the second floor at the Northwestern Michigan College Great Lakes Campus.
It will feature 10 dishes (and sides) from the textbook, including Senegalese and Vietnamese chicken, Mexican mole, Turkish meat kabob, Italian braised stuffed cabbage and Persian egg frittata. A cash bar with beer and wine also will be available.
Tickets are $20. For reservations, call 995-3120. Proceeds benefit the Great Lakes Culinary Institute.
Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables (Navarín Printanier de Pré-Salé)
Navarin is one of the top 10 favorite dishes in France. It is especially good made with the salt-marsh lamb (pré-salé) of Normandy. Young, tender fresh vegetables are the gold standard for this dish.
3 to 4 T. vegetable oil, divided
Flour, as needed
2 lb. trimmed, boneless lamb shoulder or leg, diced into 1 to 1-1/2-inch cubes
1 c. dry (hard) cider or white wine
1-1/2 c. chicken stock
8 oz. tomatoes, 1 large, about 1 c. finely diced
or 14-1/2 oz. can plum tomatoes, 1 c. drained and diced
1/4 oz. garlic, 1 large clove, 1-1/2 t. peeled and minced
1 T. minced fresh thyme
1 T. minced fresh marjoram
or 1 t. dried marjoram
1 large bay leaf
1 T. vegetable oil
1 oz. unsalted butter, 2 T. diced
3 oz. small shallots, 12 medium, 1 c. peeled and roots trimmed but not cut off
12 oz. small new potatoes, about 8, 1-1/2 c. scrubbed or peeled and halved
6 to 8 oz. young carrots, about 1-1/2 c. sliced diagonally
6 oz. baby turnips, about 6 small, 1-1/4 c. scrubbed and halved
9 oz. shelled or frozen peas, 2 c.
1/4 oz. trimmed Italian parsley, 2 T. chopped
For Serving: Crusty baguette or hot, cooked egg noodles
1. Heat a heavy 6-quart pot (about 11-inch diameter) over medium-high heat with 2 T. oil. Pour flour into a mixing bowl. Season lamb cubes with a little salt and dredge half in flour. Shake off excess flour, and place lamb cubes in hot oil. Lamb should fit in one layer with space in between for good browning. Sauté meat until evenly browned. Turn with tongs. Remove to a bowl, and repeat browning with remaining oil, flour and lamb.
2. Return all meat to pan. Stir in cider to deglaze and scrape bottom of pan. Boil 1 minute. Stir in stock, tomato, garlic and herbs. Bring stew to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until meat is tender, 1 hour. Skim away excess fat.
*Optional: For a finer result, transfer lamb to clean bowl, and push sauce through strainer into clean 6-quart pot. Skim away fat. Stir lamb cubes back into sauce and reheat.
3. Heat oil and butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in shallots, potatoes, carrots and turnips, and season with a little salt. Sauté vegetables until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer vegetables with slotted spoon (drain excess fat) to the lamb stew. Bring stew to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer partially covered until vegetables are tender, 15 minutes. If using, stir in fresh shell peas and simmer 4 minutes. Taste stew and season with salt and pepper.
4. To Serve: If using frozen peas, stir in and bring stew to a simmer. Stir in parsley and serve stew immediately with crusty baguette or over noodles. Yields 9 to 10 cups, 4 to 6 servings.
*Less Fat: Steam potatoes, carrots and turnips until just tender instead of sautéing.
*Seasonal and Colorful: Substitute other garden fresh vegetables by color like green beans.
Lebanese Savory Pies (Fatayer)
Fatayer are small savory “pies” usually found stuffed with meat, spinach or cheese. A beloved part of Middle Eastern cuisine, you’ll find them in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The classical dough is a yeast dough (aajeen), but for speed, some cooks make short crust dough sometimes with baking powder. These savory pies can be hors d’oeuvres, part of a larger meal or serve as snack food anytime.
Yields about 20 oz.
1 t. active dry yeast
1/2 t. sugar
About 12 oz. all-purpose flour, 2-1/2 to 2-3/4 cups, extra for kneading and rolling
1 t. kosher salt
3 T. olive oil, divided
Spinach Filling (Fatayer bi Sabanekh)
Yields 2-1/4 cups
1 lb. baby or trimmed fresh spinach, washed and drained
or 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, about 1 c. thawed and drained
2 to 3 T. olive oil
4 oz. onions, 1 c. peeled and finely diced
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 large lemon
Optional: 1-1/2 oz. toasted pine nuts, 1/4 c.
Feta Cheese Filling
Yields about 2-1/4 cups
2 to 3 T. olive oil
3 to 4-1/2 oz. trimmed green onions, 6 to 9 large, 3/4 to 1-1/4 c. finely chopped
12 oz. feta, 2-1/4 c. finely diced
1-1/2 t. sumac powder, more to taste
2 to 3 T. fresh lemon juice, 1 large lemon, more to taste
Olive oil for brushing finished fatayer
1. Prepare dough. In a small bowl, mix yeast, sugar and 1/2 c. lukewarm water and let it rest 5 minutes. Combine flour, salt and 2 T. oil evenly in large mixing bowl. Stir yeast mixture and an additional 1/2 c. lukewarm water into flour. Knead dough with a little more flour 1 to 2 minutes. Form into a ball. Pour remaining tablespoon oil in clean bowl and roll dough in it. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Set dough aside in a warm spot to rise until doubled, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
2. Prepare a filling.
If using fresh spinach, chop spinach and place in an 8-quart pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover and steam 1 minute. Uncover and turn spinach with tongs. Cook just until it wilts evenly. Place cooked spinach in fine strainer, cool it, then squeeze dry to yield about 1 cup. Chop fresh spinach and place in small bowl. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion until golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in fresh or thawed spinach. Season spinach with salt, pepper and lemon juice, to taste. Stir in optional nuts and place mixture back into bowl to cool.
Heat oil in 9- to 10-inch skillet over medium heat and stir in green onions. Cook until wilted down, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Transfer onions to mixing bowl; cool slightly. Stir in feta, sumac and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust flavors.
3. Press dough down. Lightly knead olive oil in bowl into dough. Form dough into a 20-inch log. Scale out 1-ounce balls or cut log into 20 (1-ounce) pieces. Set pieces on lightly floured workspace and cover with plastic wrap.
4. Pre-heat oven to 375°.
5. Form the fatayer: Fatayer dough works best when kept moist so avoid the use of too much flour. Lightly dip cut sides of dough into flour and shake off excess. Roll dough into 4-inch circles. Lightly dampen the edges of the circle of dough.
6. Fill the fatayer: Place dough circle on work surface. Place 2 T. filling in the center — it will be quite full. Form the triangle by stretching up two edges of the dough and pinching together with right thumb and forefinger. Pull up dough edge from opposite side and pinch dough together from top down to corner to form two more seams for a total of three seams. Finish with remaining dough and filling.
7. Bake fatayer: Place finished fatayer on parchment-covered sheet pan. Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Brush fatayer with a little water as soon as they arrive from the oven. Serve fatayer warm or at room temperature. Yields about 20 “pies.”
*For Lenten fatayer, cooks fill the dough with seasoned mashed chickpeas.
*For 2 bite hors d’oeuvres: Prepare each fatayer with 1/2-oz. dough (instead of 1 oz.) and half the filling.
Signature Recipe: Steamed Rice with Crust (Chelow Tah Dig)
Tah dig means “bottom of the pot.” Some Iranian cooks lay lettuce leaves instead of potatoes or lavash on the bottom of the pot for a tah dig crust. They look dramatically beautiful when the chelow is unmolded.
21 oz. basmati rice, 3 c., washed and drained as for Smothered Plain Rice
3/4 c. melted ghee, unsalted butter or oil, divided
1 oz. plain whole-milk yogurt, 2 T.
1/2 t. ground saffron soaked in 4 T. hot water
Other Optional Tah Dig Crusts
5 to 8 oz. potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch thin rounds
1 lavash bread or 10-inch flour tortilla
1. Set a large, fine strainer into a bowl set in the sink. In a heavy 4-quart pot with lid, bring 2 quarts water and 2 T. kosher salt to a big boil. Stir in rice and boil 5 minutes. Loosen rice from bottom of pot with heat-proof rubber spatula twice.
2. Pour rice into strainer and drain. Discard cooking water. Rinse rice with 3 c. warm water, and drain again.
3. Form the tah dig or bottom crust. The size of the pot will determine the amount of crust and how much rice, potato or lavash needed for the first layer.
*For Rice-Yogurt Crust
Whisk together 1/2 c. melted ghee or butter or oil, yogurt, 1/2 c. warm water and 1 T. saffron water. Fold in:
*For a 5-quart non-stick pot with 9 to 10-inch diameter fold in 2 c. parboiled rice.
*For a 6-quart non-stick pot with an 11-inch diameter, fold in 2-1/2 to 3 c. parboiled rice.
Spread seasoned rice mixture on bottom of chosen pot. Proceed with step 4.
*For Potato or Lavash Crust
Whisk together 1/2 c. melted ghee or butter or oil, 1/2 c. warm water, salt and 1 T. saffron water. Pour onto bottom of non-stick pot (see sizes above). Whisk mixture to combine before laying in sliced potato or lavash slices. Overlap potato or bread in concentric circles to fully cover bottom of pot. Season potato with salt. Proceed with step 4.
4. One large spoonful at a time, and staying away from the sides of the pot, mound remaining parboiled rice into a pyramid on top of tah dig. Cover pot with lid and place on medium heat. Cook 10 minutes.
5. Mix 1/2 c. cold water with remaining melted ghee or butter or oil and pour over rice. Drizzle remaining saffron water over rice. Drape clean cotton towel or 2 layers of paper toweling over pot and cover with lid.
6. Reduce heat to low and simmer rice 50 to 60 minutes. Check for tah dig by carefully lifting edge of rice and peeking underneath. Cook longer if it hasn’t formed. Remove pot from heat and cool 10 minutes before unmolding.
7. To Serve: Two options:
-Unmold chelow tah dig onto platter. Place platter over top of pot and with a hand on both, quickly and smoothly flip the pot onto the platter. The rice and its crust will come out in one piece — if done correctly! If not, follow the next option.
-Spoon rice onto platter and place pieces of the crust around cooked rice. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
*Use thinly sliced sweet potato or onion as a crust for chelow.
*Use a Rice Cooker: Reduce water to 4 cups. Combine 1 T. salt, 3 c. rinsed and drained basmati rice, 4 T. oil and 4 T. ghee or butter. Start rice cooker; after 75 minutes pour 1/4 t. saffron soaked in 1 T. water over rice and unplug cooker. With lid on, cool rice in cooker 10 minutes. Remove lid and unmold as for kateh.
*Prepare flat chelow cakes in small sauté pans.
*Brown Basmati: Increase water to 6-3/4 cups, par-boil brown basmati rice 15 minutes.
—Adapted from “A Taste of Persia” by Najmieh K. Batmanglij
Signature Recipe: Beans Pot-Cooked the Mexican Way (Frijoles de Olla)
For every pound of beans (about 2-1/3 c.):
1. Pick through beans thoroughly for moldy beans and stones or dirt and discard. Rinse beans very well and rub to remove as much of the dust or dirt clinging to them as possible. Drain.
2. Pour beans into a heavy 4- to 6-quart saucepan and cover with 2 to 2-1/2 quarts cold water and, for more flavor and tenderness, 1T. kosher salt. Bring to a boil. (Soaking prevents beans from bursting, but does rob them of flavor—and, in the case of black beans, color.) Immediately lower heat to a simmer. Beans break if cooked on high heat, but if they’ll be mashed that may not be important.
3. Optionally, stir in 2 oz. diced onion, about 1/2 cup.
4. Cover or partially cover the pot and simmer beans until tender, 2 to 3 hours depending on the age of the beans — older beans need longer cooking. Test beans by tasting one — it should feel creamy and taste full-flavored.
5. Season beans with salt if necessary, and simmer until completely soft, 15 minutes. Add 2 large sprigs epazote to black beans, and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and discard epazote. Beans will keep refrigerated up to 5 to 7 days. Reserve broth.
In the Yucatan, cooks prepare beans (frijol colado) with three traditional textures according to use: aguado (watery), espeso (thick) and seco (dry). The cooking time and the amount of cooking liquid, water or chicken stock added to beans when they are puréed and strained determines their texture.
-Aguado is served in a small bowl as an accompaniment to a meal, and eaten either as soup or drizzled onto meats or tacos.
-Espeso is used for fillings and toppings for tostadas or panuchos (puffed, stuffed tortillas).
-Seco is used for the Yucatecan version of refried beans, as an accompaniment to a meal.
“Dirty” Black Beans from the Yucatan (Frijoles a la Huacha)
It’s traditional to add a few sliced mint leaves to these beans before serving. In the southern state of Veracruz well-fried black beans are seasoned with toasted, crumbled Mexican avocado leaves.
Yield: 7 to 8 cups, 6 to 8 servings
1 lb. black turtle beans, about 2-1/2 c.
1/4 c. pork lard or oil
4 to 5 oz. white onion, 1 c. peeled and finely diced
1 oz. jalapeño chili, about 1 large, 2 T. stemmed, seeded and finely diced
For serving: Cooked, hot rice and warm tortillas
1. Cook beans as directed in Beans Pot-Cooked the Mexican Way. Drain beans, and reserve cooking broth. Mash beans by hand in bowl or purée in batches in blender until smooth, adding a total of 1-1/2 to 2 c. cooking broth as necessary. Pour bean purée into bowl and set aside.
2. In a deep, heavy 12-inch skillet over medium heat, add lard or oil. When hot, stir in onion and chili, and cook until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour in mashed beans or bean purée, and lower heat. Simmer beans until thickened, 5 to 10 minutes. Season beans with salt, to taste. Adjust consistency from thick to very loose, as desired, by either cooking longer or adding more bean broth.
3. To Serve: Ladle beans onto plates. Serve with rice and tortillas.
*Leave half the beans whole.
*Smooth Yucatan Beans: After puréeing beans, push through a strainer to remove skin.
*Season beans at the end with 1/2 oz. finely sliced cilantro, about 1/4 cup.