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August 3, 1999
Crossroads Cooking Across the World
Tired of the standard eggplant dishes? How about trying out Mixed Peppers with Eggplant and Tahini, a popular dish from Israel? Or would you want to surprise your guests with a Ragu of Swordfish with Tomatoes and Mint, from Sicily? Or how about treating them to Creamy Spiced Bean and Pumpkin Soup from the Caribbean?
The 200 recipes in Elisabeth Rozin's newest book, Crossroads Cooking (Viking, $ 27.50), are indeed tempting. The book also offers interesting glimpses into world cuisine, demonstrating effectively how separate ethnic cuisines merge to form exciting new traditions.
One of the most acclaimed of American food writers, Rozin is also the author of Ethnic Cuisine and The Universal Kitchen.
For her the current restaurant trend of fusion cooking -- a deliberate blend of widely divergent ingredients -- is not a new concept at all. For, cuisine fusion has been going on for centuries. In West Africa, the regional cuisine, for instance, has incorporated the American imports of hardy corn, savory peanuts and strong chillies while still using indigenous fruits and vegetables.
In Istanbul, the Smoky Eggplant is a popular dish; now, this is a simple combination of grilled eggplant, a huge favorite across Turkey, and rich European style cheese sauce. In Malaysia, the culinary influences from India and China are found in hundreds of dishes being prepared for centuries.
Crossroads cooking is far different from the self-conscious fusion cuisine, Rozin argues. The former is the product of happenstance meeting and mating of traditions.
Rozin examines 16 cultures across the globe where crossroads cooking is rooted. Among them is Burma whose cuisine is an amalgam of Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian elements.
Historically, the new culinary element is accepted easily if it enhanced or added something of value and did not challenge the existing tradition, Rozin notes. The chilly peppers, for instance, she notes were not known outside the New World before the 16th century. The Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced chillies in many countries including India.
"They (chillies) found welcome new home in cuisines throughout the world that were already using intense and powerful seasoning ingredients as a characteristic part of their culinary practice -- in India, Southeast Asia, and North Africa," Rozin notes. The pungent chillies enhanced the flavors created by ginger and garlic, onions and other spices, without detracting what was already in place.
Creamy Spiced Bean and Pumpkin Soup
The dish offers the usual Caribbean flavor -- a mixture of Indian curry, English Worcestershire, Spanish Sherry, Mexican peppers, and Jamaican all-spice.
1 small-to-medium pie pumpkin or squash, about 2
pounds (substitute 2 cans of
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degree Fahrenheit. Cut the pumpkin or squash in half horizontally and scoop out the seeds. Lightly oil the cut sides and place, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until soft. Remove, let cool, then scoop out the pulp and puree it.
2. Heat the remaining two tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and chillies over moderate heat until the onion wilts. Stir in the curry powder, ginger and allspice.
3. Add the chicken or vegetable stock, black pepper, salt, Worcestershire sauce and the reserved pumpkin puree. Mix well, then simmer over low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Stir in the beans and the sherry and simmer for a few minutes. Serve the soup hot, garnished with a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds.
Serves four to 6 people
Mango and Chicken Salad
1 cup diced cooked chicken
1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, mango, cabbage and scallion and chilly
2. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic, lemongrass, and black pepper. Whisk to blend thoroughly
3. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix gently but thoroughly. Stir in the coriander. Garnish with tomato and eggs.
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