Thursday, 27 May 2010

Jamie's America

Jamie's America
Easy Twists on Great American Classics, and More
Jamie Oliver
Hardcover, 360 pages

Have you ever experienced an occasion on which a guest in your city manages to visit and explore all sorts of interesting places that you, who have lived there your whole life, have never even heard of?
In a sort of "how I spent my summer vacation" style, Jamie explores some of the cultures and cuisines of America. This book is definitely geared to an outsider's perspective, Jamie delights in the eclectic mix that is America and shares his experiences with his readers. As I am not American and haven't spent much time there, I enjoyed his unique perspective of the country. Obviously he can't encompass the entire country in one book, so he focused on New York, Louisiana, Arizona, Los Angeles, Georgia and the Wild West.
Along the way he made friends and gathered recipes, many of which he made his own with typical Jamie style, which is to say - delicious!

I love that Mexican-style cuisine is so new and daring for the British. We started with Jamie's take on a Mexican Breakfast (Huevos Rancheros). Who can resist the spicy tomato sauce with eggs poached right in, served up with grated cheese and tortillas? Hubby was the chief taste-tester for this dish as it is a particular favourite of his. (Back from the old days when, he swears, he could go to Mexico for weeks and live like a king for, oh, I don't know, ten cents or something - methinks hubs has rose-coloured glasses when it comes to the past)
This dish was delicious, and such a great treat for our holiday weekend.

Once we got into the sudden heatwave here, I looked for dishes that wouldn't heat up the house. This Zucchini, Mint, & Farro Salad was perfect for the hot weather. I used kamut instead of farro as I couldn't find the latter and I have heard they are quite similar anyway. A meal in itself, this was perfect to eat out on the deck - in the shade of course!

Umm, these Navajo Flatbreads - while looking quite good - did not turn out for me. To tell you the truth they smelled and tasted like play-doh. I think it was the abundance of baking powder which I would think isn't original to the Navajo recipe. Moving on...

This was flipping awesome! Jamie's Fiery Shrimp Cocktail from his Los Angeles section is California/Mexi at its best. I imagine that my version was even hotter than his as he just states two chilies and I used one jalapeno and one habanero. A gloriously flavourful and spicy tomato sauce with shrimp (I grilled mine) and the optional avocado, this was my favourite dish so far.

Another very delicious dish was his Sher Ping Pancakes (pan-cooked filled pancake) from the New York Chapter. Jamie came across these at the Roosevelt Food Court and sweet-talked the lovely lady into sharing the recipe. They are more bread than pancake, with a ginger pork filling, and are completely delicious paired with the sweet chili/soy sauce. They also travel well as lunch fare - and I did manage to part with a few for hubby's lunch.

You know that if there is a condiment in a book I have to try it. Jamie's Chile Vinegar is simplicity in itself but such a great idea to have around for drizzles, marinades and salad dressings. I used one banana pepper and one green habanero and a couple of bay leaves. Spicy indeed! Mine are cut up, to fit in the bottle, smaller peppers can be pricked and left whole. Maybe I'll make a Thai one soon!

This is a fun and interesting book, a look at the country through one man's eyes. Many Americans may find that their perspective is different, but that shouldn't stop them from enjoying Jamie's delight in their country and cuisines. People like me, who don't live in America, will enjoy exploring vicariously with Jamie and cooking up the delicious dishes that he collected like postcards along the way.