Summer reading: Around the world in a dozen cookbooks

You had planned on buttering your baguette in Paris this summer, but somehow you never got around to booking your trip. Not to worry. You can still travel to faraway culinary destinations from the comfort of your own couch or bar stool. Here’s a look at a suitcase full of cookbooks with international flair. And if you find yourself smitten with Japanese noodles or Spanish tapas, remember there’s always next year.

Not just sushi

California-born Nancy Singleton Hachisu has lived in Japan for 30 years. Even then, as she admits in her introduction to “Japan: The Cookbook” (Phaidon, $49.95), writing a so-called bible of an archipelago with more than 18,000 miles of coastline was a formidable task. After consulting chefs and grandmothers alike, she delivers a lively look at Japanese cooking today. From pre-meal snacks to sweets, there are more than 400 elegant recipes altogether. Perhaps you’d like to start a meal with Vinegared Crab and Cucumber with Yuzu and end it with Okinawan-Style Sesame Donuts.

I know I would. … Photographer Andrea Fazzari’s “Tokyo New Wave: 31 Chefs Defining Japan’s Next Generation, With Recipes” (Ten Speed, $40) is a stylish volume jammed with Interview magazine-style conversations and razzle-dazzle fashion snaps — not so much for the home cook as for anyone wanting a look at the intersection of Tokyo street life and haute cuisine.

Iberia beckons

Many years ago, Christopher Idone’s “Brazil: A Cook’s Tour” inspired me to get on a plane and go to Rio. Now Nuno Mendes’ dazzling “My Lisbon: A Cookbook From Portugal’s City of Light” (Ten Speed, $35) evokes the same response. Gloriously shot by Andrew Montgomery, with pamphlet-style inserts on topics from fish to the Festival of Santo Antonio, “My Lisbon” is as easy on the eyes as a Bruce Weber photo shoot. The recipes for salt-cod fritters and pork with clams aren’t bad, either. I’m taking this book to bed with me. … Chef Jonah Miller and his partner, Nate Adler, owners of the East Village Basque restaurant Huertas, strike a whimsical, Almodovar-esque pose with “The New Spanish: Bites, Feasts, and Drinks” (Kyle Books, $34.95). From canapes to home-made vermouths, the book encapsulates the late-night exuberance that defines the culture and food of the bigger swath of the Iberian Peninsula.

Cuba libre!

The ancestors of modern Spain colonized Cuba more than 500 years ago, and together with slaves ripped from Africa to work their plantations, they transformed the island’s foodways. With “Cuba: The Cookbook” (Phaidon, $49.95), Madelaine Vazquez Galvez and Imogene Tondre document a cuisine that is less an island unto itself than a stew of international influences: Chinese, French, Russian, American. As such, this collection of 350 home-style recipes brims with Cuban Borscht, Chinese Soup, pastas, pizzas and rice dishes, plus innumerable uses, naturally, for tropical ingredients such as banana, coconut, rum, guava, plantain, yucca and so on. Mind you, there’s even a rum omelet, sprinkled with sugar and flambéed with white liquor.

For the Francophile

The venerated French chef Joel Robuchon passed away this week, but we’ll always have Paris, for food and romance. This summer’s stack of Gallic-inspired tomes includes Clotilde Dusoulier’s “Tasting Paris: 100 Recipes to Eat Like a Local” (Clarkson Potter, $30); Susan Herrmann Loomis’ “French Grill: 125 Refined & Rustic Recipes” (Countryman Press, $29.95) and Alain Ducasse’s latest, “Bistro: Classic French Comfort Food” (Rizzoli, $35). “Tasting Paris” has you covered morning, noon and night, from cafe au lait and croissants to fish beurre blanc and pommes Anna. “French Grill” argues that France invented barbecue, then suggests you give a kiss of smoke to everything from almonds to sardines. If you are interested in timeless French food, Ducasse’s “Bistro” is the book for you. Think Sole Meuniere, Cassoulet and Duck Confit. It’s the stuff of mirrored bars and red-velvet chairs, oui, oui.

Islamic cultures

Turkey, India and Iran all have kebabs: Why is that? Though I’ve had many deja vu moments in my travels, I was never able to make the connections between these similar-but-different cuisines — until I picked up Anissa Helou’s magnificent “Feast: Food of the Islamic World” (Ecco, $60), that is. One of the most important cookbooks of the year, “Feast” conjures a far-flung culinary diaspora that is infinitely varied and delicious. … At Brooklyn’s Tanoreen, chef Rawia Bishara was a pioneer in introducing the exotic flavors of the Middle East to American palates. Her second book, “Levant: New Middle Eastern Cooking From Tanoreen” (Kyle Books, $34.95), offers tantalizing dishes rooted in the Eastern Mediterranean region known as the Levant, which she defines as present-day Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. Bishara is a proponent of healthy eating; thus the book veers toward vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. Perhaps it’s time to consider Portobello Shawarma and Baked Pumpkin Kibbie.

When in Italy

When she was 6, Skye McAlpine’s family moved to Venice, intending to stay a year, and they’ve never really left. After years of observing, cooking and eating in this floating city of canals and gondolas, McAlpine thinks Venetian home-cooking is Italy’s best-kept secret. After looking at her Clams in White Sauce and Mascarpone Tart with Figs, from her dreamy and evocative “A Table in Venice: Recipes From My Home” (Clarkson Potter, $32.50), I’d say she’s on to something. … Food Network star Giada de Laurentiis grew up in Los Angeles, but she was born in Rome. With “Giada’s Italy: My Recipes for La Dolce Vita” (Clarkson Potter, $35), the perky TV personality returns to the Eternal City and showers us with simple, approachable Italian food. As she points out, Italians know how to slow down and savor the moment, but never at the expense of flavor. De Laurentiis’ Lemon White Pizza; Grilled Scallops with Prosciutto and Basil; and Spritzer Slushy (orange, lemon, Aperol and prosecco) sound like a heavenly way to embrace La Dolce Vita without ever leaving your backyard. Buon appetito.

More must-read cookbooks

Get a taste of the new fusion revolution with the 2018 AJC Spring Dining Guide: Global Mashup 

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