My husband brought Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey by Najmieh Batmanglij home with him from a business trip in New York. It was such a revelation!
It introduced me to many new ingredients, such as unripe (sour) grapes and kashk (intense tasting goat cheese that you can buy either liquid labeled “Iranian Sauce” or dried as little white balls, which incidentally make an incredible spaghetti sauce).
I also learned the technique of using a small amount of rice or barley to thicken a soup or other dishes, giving texture without adding too many carbohydrates.
The recipes are full of fascinating ingredients like rosewater, rose petals, saffron, orange blossom water, angelica, berberis (barberries), banana leaves, thai basil, Persian lime, mahlab (“spice from the kernels found inside the pits of wild black cherries”), mastic (“resin of a tree in the pistachio family”), pomegranate molasses, tahini paste, tamarind – just to name a few of the unique ingredients that make the recipes in this book so delicious. There’s an appendix at the end of the book that explains many of the special ingredients and techniques.
If you don’t have these spices and ingredients at home, I am sure that after looking at some of the recipes in this book you will be compelled to seek them out.
Alongside the recipes, the first 57 pages of this 336-page book contain a fascinating, generously illustrated introduction to the “Silk Road”, its history and the origin of the term. It invites you to join the author on a “voyage of culinary discovery, along a path that stretches through the ages and across half the world, from China in the east to the Mediterranean in the west.”
The author declares that this book is meant “for browsing as well as cooking”. The chapters are laid out as follows:
- Introduction: A Traveler’s Tale | The Era of Caravans | New Foods – East & West | Toward a Silk Road Cuisine
- Fruit & Vegetable Braises
- Pasta, Pizza & Bread
- Pastries, Desserts & Candies
- Teas, Coffee & Sherbets
- Preserves, Pickles & Spices
- Silk Road Glossary & Resources
- Credits & Acknowledgments