Starred Review. Born Ethiopian, raised Swedish, and now one of New York City's top chefs, Samuelsson (Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine) has written an exotic yet accessible book that will hasten the coming of the African fusion cookery he envisions. His 204 recipes and 258 color photos are enriched with personal and political history; as in his many condiments and sauces, the balance is right. While he stresses the diversity and bounty of the second-largest continent, he repeatedly describes African cuisine as poor people's cooking, crafted with simple tools and necessarily emphasizing starches, vegetables and big flavors. Whether it's rosemary for Honey Bread or turmeric, ginger and cinnamon in his Vegetable Samosas, herbs and spices are always sauteed in oil or tossed in a hot dry pan, to intensify and mellow. He even proposes toasting the cinnamon for the whipped cream accompanying his Ethiopian Chocolate Rum Cake. The recipe for the cake is typical: the batter is prepared in a single bowl, mixed with a spoon, and bakes up moist and gingerbread-like, with great keeping properties. Toasting the cinnamon takes seconds and is impressive in the complexity it delivers. (Oct.)
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Samuelsson established his reputation as one of the foremost exponents of contemporary Swedish cookery through Aquavit, his celebrated New York City restaurant. Now he travels to wholly new territory by returning to the land of his birth and the glorious traditions of African cooking. From his native Ethiopia he prepares injera, the country's staple fermented flatbread. Moroccan cooking, one of Africa's most sophisticated, contributes harissa, a fiery spice paste that warms many North African dishes. Cassava stuffs shrimp for a satisfying West African meal. Samuelsson substitutes beef for lamb in South Africa's renowned bobotie but takes care to preserve the dish's curry-influenced spicing. Jerk chicken, more generally associated with Jamaica, shows how African eating traditions have spread abroad. He does not flinch at using contemporary ingredients such as arugula and Yukon Gold potatoes to make his recipes attractive. The immensity and diversity of Africa make it difficult to comprehend a continent's varied cooking styles in a single book, but Samuelsson's achievement celebrates a little-known cuisine. Mark Knoblauch
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