Inviting, accessible recipes bring this award-winning chef's home kitchen right into ours.
Reviewed in the United States on 23 April 2018
This book is all about the home cooking of multiple James Beard-award-winning Chef Samuelsson. Recipes are straightforward, simple, and made with accessible ingredients, but with influences from the author's remarkable culinary journey: from his native Sweden to his world travels including Asian cuisine; and from his love of Southern soul food to the cuisine of Ethiopia, the land of his birth.
The author's definition of “off duty” is improvising, free from the consistency that his restaurant dishes command: these recipes are what he cooks at home, and he encourages us to improvise. Every dish has a delightful, informative headnote telling us about the dish: what role it played in his life in Sweden, as a chef aboard ship, as well as how it plays in his life today, plus perhaps a few tips about ingredients and technique.
The ingredients are accessible and affordable for anyone with a good supermarket, fishmonger, butcher, and Farmers' Market. Chef frequently suggests substitutions or notes on where to find for ingredients that may be a little harder to find. Most of the fresh seafood, including calamari, clams, and salmon, are accessible for most home cooks. I live in the inland far north U.S., with a grocery store that is smaller than most gas stations; however, literally only a handful of ingredients are not accessible to me either locally or via amazon: fresh sardines (sigh), whole trout (I lack the required fishing skills and patience), non-frozen whole duck, and catfish; however, most readers will find these ingredients available. If I ate meat, I'm pretty sure that I could find a farmer here in the middle of nowhere who would sell me a suckling pig; however, for those without such resources or a world-class butcher, that may be a challenge.
The author does occasionally suggests store-bought ingredients such as frozen puff pastry, chili sauce, frozen peas, canned creamed corn, (presumably) bottled clam juice ("Corn and Clam Chowder"), and canned tomatoes.
The recipes, with their focus on cooking for friends and family, beckon me right into the kitchen. The "Special Days" chapter is a tour de force: Chinese New Year, Easter, Passover, Thanksgiving, Kwanza, and many more holidays are celebrated here. There are inviting chapters on grilling, "Street Food," and "Cooking With Kids." There are sides, spreads, and, of course, pickles. Some of his desserts seem more like hearty meals, and Chef Samuelsson would probably agree: clearly, the author loves his desserts. Has anyone else ever made a chocolate fondue to serve with oatmeal cookies? From the thrift that was a hallmark of his Swedish upbringing, we see creative use of leftovers in several dishes, as well as in notes and suggestions. Although some of the recipes have many ingredients, most of them are simply spices or condiments: very few involve time-consuming prep of multiple ingredients. And, although some recipes occupy more than one page, preparation for the vast majority of recipes--even the celebration dishes--is quite simple and straightforward. There are just a few delightful exceptions such as "Swedish Princess Cake" (however, we're told that, if we're not up to making marzipan, "just top the cake with fresh [berries]."
The Kindle formatting is outstanding: everything is clickable: TOC, embedded recipes, Index, and Notes on ingredients and techniques. Many, but not all, recipes, have color photos. There are many photos of ingredients, markets, and more throughout the book. Charming, often whimsical, watercolor illustrations abound throughout the book.
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