Ethnic eating from NYC’s famous foodies

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8 cookbooks that offer a world of feasts in your own kitchen


By Carol Ann Rinzler

Miami loves Latin; San Francisco, Asian; and Chicago, middle European. But New York is where America comes to eat all around the world.

In a city that speaks — and probably cooks in — more than 170 languages, Zagat’s restaurant roster lists 60-plus ethnic and regional cuisines ranging from A (Afghan, African, Argentinean, Asian, Australian, Austrian) through the Three I’s on every politician’s world tour (Ireland, Israel, Italy) and maybe on to Z if one of the African restaurants in town serves dishes native to Zambia, Zimbabwe, or Zaire.

Naturally, many New York’s famous foodies and restaurant aficionados have written the books you need to bring the good stuff home to your own kitchen, all available at your favorite bookstore such as the UES’s own Kitchen Arts and Letters, the LES’s Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbooks, the West Village’s Joanne Hendricks Cookbooks or A small sampling (in alphabetical order):

Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love, by Einat Admony (Artisan). The chef and owner of Bar Bolonat and Taïm (a third restaurant, Balaboosta, is currently closed for relocation), Admony bases the 140 recipes in her book on her Israeli heritage (Yemenite, Persian) to offer a cuisine that leans toward the Mediterranean, fitting all who live within site of the lovely blue sea.

Chinatown, New York, by Ann Volkwein (Collins Design), does the honors for the largest Chinese community in the Western hemisphere, with special mention to special restaurants and recipes for fresh seafood, a variety of pork dishes, dim sum delicacies and, of course, the ubiquitous Chinese dumpling. Pictures, too.

Daniel Boulud’s Cafe Boulud Cookbook, by Daniel Boulud (Scribner). A treasury of classic French cuisine with occasional nods to the cookery of Italy, Spain and East Asia, plus family history from the owner of Café Boulud and recipes written by cookbook author Dorie Greenspan. There is also a glossary applicable to all kinds of cookers, everything you need to know about pots and pans and even a list of reputable and reliable purveyors.

The Food Lover’s Guide to the Best Ethnic Eating in New York City, by Robert Sietsema and Calvin Trillin (Arcade Publishing). This entire city’s worth of notes on ethnic eating in all five boroughs features restaurants whose menus include dishes from such far-flung culinary outposts as Armenia, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Malaysia, New Guinea, West Africa and yes, even regional America.

The Go Green East Harlem Cookbook/El Librio de Cocina Viva Verde East Harlem, edited by Scott M. Stringer (Jones Books) during the NYC Comptroller’s previous incarnation as Manhattan Borough President. You can read this in English if you start from one end and Spanish if you turn the book and start from the other. Either way, the recipes — contributed by members of the largest Puerto Rican community outside Puerto Rico — are updated to bring traditional dishes into line with modern nutrition guidelines: less fat, more fiber, and fresh foods at every turn.

The Irish Pub Cookbook, by Margaret Johnson, pictures by Leigh Beisch (Chronicle Books). There are approximately 2,000 Irish pubs in the Big Apple, roughly one for every 43,113 New Yorkers or, to put it another way, one for every 210 Irish among us. Surprisingly, none of the pub people appears to have written his or her own book but this illustrated volume by Massachusetts-transplant Johnson suffices with recipes for more than 70 pub classics ranging from Shepherd’s Pie to fish and chips and whiskey bread pudding.

Rao’s Cookbook: Over 100 Years of Italian Home Cooking, by Frank Pellegrino (Random House). Recipes from the legendary ten-table restaurant that has been in the Rao-Pellegrino family since 1896 — with a recent offshoot at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas — include such sterling standbys as marinara sauce, seafood salad, roasted peppers with pine nuts and raisins, baked clams, lemon chicken and so on, a gift to those who may never score a seat at the real Rao’s tables but can still enjoy their classic Italian cooking.

The Veselka Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Landmark Restaurant in New York’s East Village, by Tom Birchard and Natalie Danford (Thomas Dunne Books) offers up recipes from a Ukrainian restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, once home to a large contingent of Eastern Europeans (veselka means rainbow in Ukrainian). The collection includes such classics as pierogi, five different kinds of borscht, grilled kielbasa and poppy seed cake. As a bonus, Veselka owner Birchard tells pleasant tales of celebrity customers.

Carol Ann Rinzler is the author of “Nutrition for Dummies.”

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