Variety of cookbooks feature traditional dishes, family favorites


When you can’t get away for a leisurely vacation in a foreign land, let your taste buds do the traveling.

From Italy to India, these ethnic cookbooks offer authentic recipes and contemporary takes on cuisine from faraway places.

“Perdutamente: Crazy for Italian Food: A Memoir of Family, Food and Place with Recipes” by Joe Famularo (Xlibris, $26.99) – The author came of age between two world wars in an Italian-American tenement on West 46th Street in Hell’s Kitchen. His heartfelt description of his Depression-era childhood makes it sound heavenly. “Mama put food on a pedestal,” he writes. “My friends today think I’m joking, or surely exaggerating, when I say I never tasted canned food until I went to college, but the truth is that even our tomato paste was homemade.” Famularo takes readers back in time and place with stories of rolling pasta dough and stuffing sausages in a New York City railroad flat, sometimes trekking to Ferrara’s Pastry Shop for cannoli. Tucked in the back of each of the 26 chapters are nearly 100 recipes for dishes from his youth: Sicilian Cream Cake, Homemade Minestrone with Bread Balls, Homemade Italian Meatballs, Stuffed Artichokes, Duck Lasagna with Porcini and Truffles, Swiss Chard and Ricotta Tart with Uncooked Fresh Tomato Sauce. The title means “desperately” or “hopelessly” in Italian, as in “essere perdutamente innamorati” to be madly in love – with food. On the Web: www.crazyforitalianfood.com.

“Taste of Tanzania: Modern Swahili Recipes for the West” by Miriam R. Kinunda (Miroki Publishing, $34.95) – This 179-page collection comes from a Tanzanian-born food blogger who owns her own spice brand by the same name. Dishes – influenced by neighboring countries on the east coast of Africa as well as India, Iran and Portugal – use ingredients like bananas, avocados, mangoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, coconut milk, rice and beans. Every recipe except for one – Green Bananas and Oxtail, which shows green bananas – features a photograph of the finished product. This is particularly helpful for Western home cooks who might not be familiar with the dishes – from Fish in Peanut Sauce (Samaki Wa Karanga) and Goat Curry (Mchuzi Wa Mbuzi) to soups like Mtori, traditionally prepared for new mothers, and Makongoro, a peppery cows’ feet soup common among the poor. One chapter is dedicated to scratch-made drinks, like chai, lemongrass and ginger tea and avocado juice. On the Web: www.tasteoftanzania.com.

“Cooking and Eating Wisdom for Better Health: How the Wisdom of Ancient Greece Can Lead to a Longer Life” by Maria Benardis (Balboa Press, $53.95) – This book draws inspiration from the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who’s credited with these quotes: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” and “Everything in excess is opposed to nature.” The first 10 chapters discuss Greek philosophy, culture and customs. Each ends with affirmations such as “I love and respect myself and the environment and so I choose to work with the seasons and the flow of life when I am cooking.” Part two focuses on common Greek ingredients such as artichokes, cherries, figs, lemons, pomegranates and watercress. There are two or three recipes for each key ingredient. The author founded Greekalicious, a Greek cooking school in Sydney. Her 2009 book, “My Greek Family Table,” won a Gourmand World Cook Book Award. An e-book version of this volume is available for $12.99. On the Web: www.greekalicious.com.au or www.mariabenardis.com.

“Pure and Special: Gourmet Indian Vegetarian Cuisine” by Vidhu Mittal (Interlink Publishing, $30) – Each recipe in this visually appealing, 224-page cookbook comes with multiple vibrant photographs that pop out against a bright white background, invoking a sense of freshness. At the beginning, there’s a compendium of herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables and lentils commonly used in Indian cuisine. At the back, there are sample menus for high tea and celebrations as well as step-by-step instructions for making yogurt and paneer. In between, easy-to-follow photographs accompany simple, well-organized instructions for recipes such as Lotus Stem & Pasta Salad, Leafy Fennel Bread, Leafy Paneer Soup, Creamy Saffron Paneer, Stuffed Lentil Pancakes, Mint Yogurt Chutney and Strawberry Rice Pudding. The author has taught cooking classes in India for more than 20 years.

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