Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: Everyday Exotic by Roger Mooking and Allan Magee

“One person’s exotic is another person’s everyday.” That’s the basic premise behind Everyday Exotic (Whitecap) as well as the television show that spawned this new book.

Host of the show and co-author of the book, Roger Mooking was born in Trinidad and Tobago, raised in Edmonton, Alberta and somehow the culinary traditions of both are seamlessly fused into the cuisine he coaches. Imagine for a moment a smooth and elegant Celeriac soup served with Gorgonzola Garlic Bread. Somehow for me this simple pairing beautifully showcases Mooking’s food ethic. These are classic flavors, remimagined… and suddenly the everyday becomes exotic.

Bringing it all home once more, Mooking’s preamble to Potato Gumbo:
I love the deep, deep flavors of cajun food. French cooking can have very subtle flavours, but Cajun just smacks you in the head. Every now and again a smack in the head is a good thing.
Again, the recipe here is both easy and startling, the resulting soup surprisingly smooth and surprisingly good. The adventure continues: Shoreline Fried Halibut served with Tofu Fries and Soy Sauce Aioli and Mushy Edamame. Nori-Crusted Salmon served with Soba Noodle Salad and Green Tea. Lamb Kabobs with Tamarind Sauce and Black-Eyes Peas and Rice.

In a different era, we might have disparagingly rolled our eyes and called such concoctions fusion. But this is more than that. This is beyond fusion. These are quite often strong, but natural flavors, put together in interesting and sometimes surprising ways. More: Mooking’s instructions are clear and, considering the complicated-seeming nature of the recipes, they are surprisingly simple. The design of the book is straight-forward, the photographs good and the production values high.

If you have in mind to try something just a little bit -- or a lot! -- different, Everyday Exotic is a very good place to start. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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