Favorite Cookbooks: Louisa Shafia

Favorite Cookbooks: Louisa Shafia

I'm excited to share a new cookbook list today. This one is from the lovely and talented Louisa Shafia. Louisa and I share a publisher, and although she (primarily) lives in Brooklyn, she and I also share a common interest in natural ingredients, farmers' markets, and beautiful food. She wrote The New Persian Kitchen. You'll love it. I'll likely share my favorite soup from it sometime in the coming weeks (and will be back later this week with a new recipe post), but in the meantime, Louisa has kindly agreed to share a bit about some of the cookbooks that have a special place in her kitchen.

LOUISA'S COOKING STYLE (in her own words):

My guiding principle in the kitchen is "food is medicine," and from there anything goes. I like to purchase whatever fresh produce catches my eye, and then make it into something tasty and beautiful with the help of olive oil, spices, whole grains, legumes, and once in a while some fish or meat.

I trace my cooking style back to the way I ate growing up. My mom was a devotee of Julia Child, and the legendary New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne. But when she got together with my dad, my mom had to temper her love of cream, butter, foie gras, and all things French with the eating habits of a cardiologist from Iran, whose idea of a great meal was grilled fish, rice and beans, salad, and a dessert of fresh fruit. This meant that our family rarely ate fried food, dairy products (except yogurt), white bread, red meat, or processed sugar, but we did have lots of beans, whole grains, fish, nuts, fruits, herbs, and vegetables.

Within these parameters, my mom consistently made healthy food that was delicious and exciting, borrowing flavors from such diverse cuisines as Chinese, Thai, Persian, Mexican, Russian, and yes, even French. I try to do the same, whether I'm making homemade ramen, tempeh kebabs, farro risotto, or something as simple as a caramel-sweet yam baked in its jacket.

After spending the last two years researching Iranian food, my go-to seasonings are Persian ingredients like turmeric, dill, dried mint, and sumac. I've also been influenced by the Persian philosophy of eating, which is about balancing the diet between "hot" and "cold" foods. For example, beets, barley, yogurt, and oranges make the body feel cold, while mushrooms, chickpeas, and apples boost internal heat. As with Indian Ayurvedic cooking and traditional Chinese medicine, the belief is that you can heal sickness by adjusting your intake of hot, cold, and neutral foods. In a classic Persian meal, there is harmony between the elements that make up a dish, so a hot food like lamb kebab is served with cooling accompaniments like yogurt and rice.

The idea of cooking for health still has a ways to go in this country before being embraced on a grand scale, but it's the throughline that inspires me to keep exploring food and creating new recipes.

LOUISA'S FAVORITE COOKBOOKS:

Along with eating out in restaurants, cookbooks are one of my main sources of inspiration. Here are some of the cookbooks that I turn to most often, some of which are creased and oil-spattered with years of use, and some that are still crisp and new.

- The Millennium Cookbook & Jerusalem: Of the eight recipes that I've tried so far from this book, each one turned out perfectly, and to me that means a lot. These dishes have beautiful and exotic flavor combinations, such as barberries with dill, eggplant with pomegranate, and guava with plums. The book invites the reader into the colorful city of Jerusalem, with poetic essays about daily life along and vibrant photos of people and recipes.

- The Newlywed Cookbook: This book is full of modern takes on classic dishes, with a mix of recipes that run the gamut from healthy to downright decadent. What's more, the recipes are foolproof. I can thumb through and find a new recipe and prepare it for guests the same night, without having to "practice" it beforehand. Some of my favorite recipes include Baked Risotto with Roasted Vegetables, Seared Halibut with Coriander and Carrots, and Thousand-Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies.

- The Legendary Cuisine of Persia: A classic resource on Iranian cuisine written by the British food historian Margaret Shaida, this deeply researched book tells the story of Iran's founding, and explains the basis of the country's 3,000-year-old cooking traditions. Much more than simply a cookbook, it explains the ritual and spiritual roles of food in Iran, and gives readers a background on Iranian culture and hospitality.

- Canal House Cooks Every Day: A treasury of great flavor combinations and valuable cooking techniques. From pesto to pickles to pie, these two veteran cooks show you how to make superb, original versions of just about any dish that you might want to make--sort of a sophisticated, modern incarnation of The Joy of Cooking. The book has a striking aesthetic that includes poetry, illustrations, and images of nature as well as gorgeous recipe photos.

*****

Many thanks for taking the time to share with us Louisa! xoxo -h

For those of you who are interested in keeping up with Louisa's life and work, you can find her at Lucid Food, or attend one of her classes, dinners, or events.

Lead photo by Linnea Covington, courtesy of The Gentle Kitchen..

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Comments

I cannot believe it! I have all her faves except the The Frog Commissary one. You Know I'll be looking for that! I do have Lucid foods and look foreward to her next one. Thank you to both of you!

Susan

I'm so excited for her new book! I am Persian and just started learning my mom's recipes. It makes me sad that Persian food is not well represented in cookbooks and restaurants. I hope this is a sign that Persian food is becoming more popular because the flavors are unique but easy to love and the food is 'whole'. Good luck to her!

The Frog Commissary Cookbooks is one of my all time favorites and especially close to my heart because I am from Philadelphia. The carrot cake is absolutely divine! The book was one of the ones I too referenced most when I had my catering business Affairs to Remember Catering.

I'm thrilled to see this because I discovered Louisa a bit ago while searching for a Persian cookbook. The New Persian Kitchen is shipping to me soon, but this is a nice preview! I love Persian cuisine, but it can be difficult to find "vegetable focused" recipes--the perfect description. Even though I am a vegetarian, I often buy cookbooks that are not if I feel I will still get a lot out of them, and I feel this book will be a good example.

Val

LOVE Frog Commissary Cookbook. A staple in our kitchen... pistachio crusted fried brie bites?! ohhh yeahh! Am grabbing Lucid Food now! thanks!!

I love Louisa. Lucid Food was one of the first books I picked up when I shifted my career and turned my lens towards food photography a few years back. I am very much looking forward to her new book! Also, her list of cookbook recommendations couldn't have come at a better time. Was just thinking I need to refresh the stack in my kitchen and her list is just what the doctor ordered.

As Louisa describes it, healthy also means delicious! Intriguing thoughts on how she cooks, and love the photo of her in her compact urban kitchen. Approachable selection of cookbooks, and I'm looking forward to the publication of her new one!

I also wanted to pick-up Jerusalem. I held out because of some mixed reviews. Thanks!!!

Bridget

There is so much goodness in this interview, I think that it is my favourite in the series so far! I wasn't familiar with Louisa, but now I'm looking forward to her new cookbook about Persian cooking. I think that she also put the spotlight on some lesser known gems, especially 'Verdura' and the 'Legendary Cuisine of Persia'. Bring on the spring vegetables! This post has inspired me to get cooking with a new flavor palette.

Nice! Louisa introduced me to raw kale salads in Lucid Food. She was definitely ahead of her times. Can't wait to see her new cookbook. :)

Ooooo I've been hearing about a few of theeeeesssssaaaaaa. All over it.

I use to work with a woman who was Persian and she often brought delicious Persian dishes for us to try. I loved it all so much! Will have to check out this new cookbook and learn more about this wonderful cuisine. Thanks for sharing!

what an interesting idea of balancing hot and cold foods- I'm definitely going to think about this more!

So much inspiration from this post! Want everything.

This is so fascinating, especially the part about hot and cold foods for healing. I love the concept of food as medicine. Interesting list of books too, many of which I hadn't come across before. Jerusalem has been on my wish list for a while now. Thanks!

I must admit that cookbooks are my weakness. I'm a big fan of Yotan Ottolenghi's books, his cooking style suits me perfectly. One of my other favourites is Guy Mirabella's Hungry - Australia's answer to Ottolenghi!

So nice to hear someone else treasures their copy of the Frog Commissary Cookbook! The Carrot Cake pages in my copy are "well-loved", it's the BEST carrot cake you'll ever have. Try the the Curried Red Lentil Salad, and the Mocha Buttercrunch Pie is ecstasy! The New Persian Kitchen is on MY list, now.

arcane54

I am loving cookbooks again these days, after relying solely on the internet for a long time ... and am remembering how much I love the look and feel of a written collections. _Super Natural_ was my first purchase in a long, long time ... and I'm eating yellow split pea salad with pesto right now, believe it or not. ;) Thanks for this list!

Thanks for spotlighting Louisa and thanks to Louisa for sharing her faves. I've wanted to pick up Jerusalem now for awhile so I love hearing 8 recipes turned out perfectly. And I have Newlyweds and Canal House. Love them both. Fabulous list for my wishlist :)

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