Thursday, August 6, 2015

Taste of the Place Global Food Experience Cookbook Project...

I can't tell you how beyond thrilled I am to collaborate with Julie Cockburn from Bend Oregon on her upcoming cookbook (Update: delayed to Spring '18).  Lovely Julie is a real food advocate, food photographer and writer amongst other talents with a knack for discovering regional cuisines. She has also graced Susan's Savour-It! as my very first guest blogger with her delicious autumn Roasted Acorn Squash with Zingy Greens. Along with 13 other food writers from around the world (including Julie), I had the honour of contributing four recipes (an appetizer, main meal, side and dessert) from my heritage-- Cantonese Chinese cuisine to her much-anticipated Taste of the Place cookbook. Nearing the final stages, we were asked to test each other's recipes which involves noting anything that is unclear or confusing, errors, or ingredients that are a challenge to come by. I tested four recipes by fellow contributor Dana Burlacu Visternicu from Romania, and the results were sensational! Here is an intro. to Julie's book and a sneak peek inside with my experience cooking for the first time Romanian cuisine!

Julie Cockburn's Taste of the Place
Let’s take a journey!
Available Autumn, 2015!
I believe that food should be a fun adventure, opening us to new experiences, and connecting us to other people, places, and cultures.
Far too many people are bored and disconnected in their lives. It’s my experience that a beautiful and tasty meal, especially one shared with friends, can sometimes be the gentle nudge, or even the dynamic spark, that might start to wake a person up to excitement, connection, and enjoyment in life.
That’s what the Taste Of The Place cookbook is all about – having an adventure with food and exploring other places and cultures, without ever having to leave home. Together we will journey through fourteen different areas of the world, exploring each region through its food!
Through my work as a real food advocate, blogger, and photographer, I have had the fortune to meet extraordinary food writers and professionals from all over the world. This project features 13 of those amazing individuals (plus a chapter of my own – for a total of 14 regional experiences).
You will explore 14 different areas of the world, some more familiar such as the Southwest US and Italy, some more exotic like Kenya and Jordan, getting a glimpse into their unique food cultures, along with a series of recipes to create one complete meal from each region. Engaging stories and beautiful photography invite you to explore each region, while enticing recipes draw you into the kitchen to start your own food adventure.
I think it’s such a cool and fun way to connect with other cultures from around the world, and I hope you will think so, too!
As Prachi Grover, contributor for India, beautifully states in her chapter about the Indian kitchen, “Be it everyday life, festivals, celebrations, religious offerings or even mourning, there is no facet of our lives that is untouched by food… Culture, colors and the chaos. Sights, sounds and the smells. Festivals, faiths and the food. I love it all, and what is truly special is that all of these change every few miles.”

-- Julie Cockburn
Who are the contributors? Meet them here.

Here is a glimpse of one of my recipe contributions-- Wonton soup from the China chapter of the Taste Of The Place cookbook.

Julie calls these "little clouds of tastiness in my soup!"

When Julie asked if we would like to test each other's recipes, I knew I wanted to explore a cuisine I never cooked before. I've been deeply conversing with fellow Jamie Oliver Food Revolution ambassador in Romania Mary Balaban about the inspiring work she's doing over there with children-- so Romania easily came foremost to mind. I pulled out my copy of The Foodlover's Atlas of the World to read more about the foods in this East European country nestled in the Balkan Peninsula. I learned their most important staple is corn, milled into fine meal used in polentas-- mamaliga and porridges, and potatoes is a close second. A long tradition of vegetable cookery ensues, particularly during Lent with widely grown beans, sweet peppers, tomatoes, squash, asparagus and eggplant. I've learned that dill is well-loved, an annual herb originating in Eastern Europe, and thus finds many uses in Romanian cuisine. East European cottage cheese is often used in Bucovina, Romania, the home where Dana's meal is centred. It is drier than our North American equivalent with our ricotta or farmers cheese being great substitutes. Sour cream is also a commonplace ingredient. And trout feels at home in the fast mountain rivers of Bucovina!  Now enter Dana's recipes--

Dana's complete meal consisted of Tocinei (potato and cheese pancakes), Trout with Sour Cream and Dill served with Corn and Potato Porridge. And to cap it off with something sweet-- Papanasi (cheese donuts with sour cream and jam).

These potato pancakes are a great appetizer, reminding me of rosti or latkes. Ricotta cheese or cottage cheese (well-drained) used for binding also gives these pancakes a yummy twist.

Crispy, tender and delectable with a sprinkle of fresh dill and sour cream as a dip.

Corn and Potato porridge comes from Bucovina, and is ubiquitously eaten in every home especially in the North. Very easy to make, this comfort staple cooks up thick and replaces potato or bread at meals-- perfect for vegans and vegetarians and anyone cutting down on wheat or gluten. The natural flavours of potato and corn (from corn meal) come together to bring the best of both worlds in a simple side complementary to all meats and fish.

Considered a delicacy, whole trout, its fillets or any white fish will do in this delicious famous Bucovina fish dish with green onions, fresh dill and sour cream. I like cooking it traditionally whole-- in a wide pan, the sauce cooked up thinner and in a smaller pan, saucier. Served alongside the dense corn and potato porridge, it was a match made well on a plate.

One national treasure is Papanasi-- classic flavoursome fried doughnuts and holes made with baking ingredients you have on hand and ricotta or cottage cheese (well-drained). So easy to make in your home kitchen-- I like batch-frying in a small pot to reduce the use of too much oil and to better manage any splattering.

Crispy, pleasantly chewy-- kind of like a dense cruller, and oh-so delicious with sour cream, blackberry or sour cherry jam and a dusting of powdered sugar. Papanasi can also be made in a tasty boiled version too!

Thumbs up Dana from my handsome nephew Caden! Just so happened to be his mom (my sister's) birthday that day-- so this was a nice sweet treat ode to turning another year older!

I had a great experience cooking up and tasting Romanian dishes, and it certainly won't be my last.  As Julie says, "this is about bringing people together over food, even though they are worlds apart!" You are certainly doing this Julie, connecting all of us collaborators through discovery and adventure even before your book is finished-- BRAVO!  I will continue to share information about the Taste of the Place cookbook as we get updates! Also, sign up on Julie's site to receive a free chapter from the cookbook, updates and more. So exciting!

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