Our look at some recent books that would make great gifts for cooks this Christmas continues with the latest from young star chef Marcus Samuelsson. New American Table is a love song to Samuelsson's adopted country, the United States, and especially to New York City, which practically shows up as an extra character in this book.
Title & Publisher: New American Table, by Marcus Samuelsson. Published by Wiley, 2009.
First impressions: This is a hefty book, big and tall and very heavy. It feels more like a coffee table book than one you're actually going to prop up on your counter. This is slightly annoying, as the recipes are very inviting. We will probably photocopy or hand copy any recipes we want to make before carrying them into the kitchen. The book is full (full!) of colorful photographs of food, the recipes, New York City, and Samuelsson's friends and family in the kitchen.
Number of recipes: About 300.
The angle: First, some back story on Marcus Samuelsson. Samuelsson is originally from Ethiopia, but he was adopted at a young age by his parents in Sweden. He became interested in cooking, and at 24 ended up becoming the chef at Aquavit in New York City and also the youngest chef ever to get a three-star review from the New York Times. (His first book was about recapturing his Ethiopian roots and rediscovering African cuisine.) In this book, Samuelsson tells the story of how he intended to do a short stage in New York City before going back to Europe to work in a prestigious French restaurant. But he fell in love with America and its huge mishmash of immigrant influences and ideas in its food. This book is his attempt to capture the energy of American cooking that captivated him.
Strengths: An imaginative and vivid approach to American cooking, but one that is also accessible. The recipes feel open and fresh, and warm and inviting.
Recipes for right now: Helga's Fish Balls with Chunky Curry, Apple Cake, Latkes with Apple-Horseradish Sauce, Coffee-Cured Duck Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette, Coconut Hen with Sesame-Citrus Slaw, and Quick Beef Curry with Avocado and Plantains.
Recommended? Yes, for fans of Samuelsson's earlier work, and for cooks who would like a big fat colorful coffee table cookbook to help inspire them this winter.
• Buy the book: New American Table, $21.60 at Amazon
More Books for Gift-Giving
• Early Stocking Stuffer: Cookie Craft Christmas
• For the Pasta Lover: Pasta Sfoglia
• For the Toddler's Parents: Gastrokid
• For the Ambitious Baker: Baking Artisan Pastries & Breads
More 2009 Book Reviews
• The New Portuguese Table by David Leite
• Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen
• Clean Food by Terry Walters
• On Food & Cooking by Harold McGee
• Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts Francini
• The Perfect Fruit by Chip Brantley
• Heard it Through the Grapevine by Matt Skinner
• Big Food by Elissa Altman
• Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters
• The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
• Milk by Anne Mendelson
• The New Steak by Cree LeFavour
• A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
• Fresh Food From Small Places by R. J. Ruppenthal
• Eat Feed Autumn Winter by Anne Bramley
• Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo