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September 28, 2016 8:09 PM   Subscribe

I've been doing little cooking challenges for a while. Not every Sunday, but, often, I challenge myself to make something slightly complicated that I've never made before. I've found that I tend toward French/Cajun and, distantly second, Italian. I would like to expand my culinary horizons.

I didn't start to learn to cook until I was 26, 11 years ago. I've gone from crock pot to roasting to slightly more sophisticated. I've developed my own brisket, kugel, and challah recipes, so traditional Jewish foods need not apply. (I'm making tzimmes with pomegranate seeds and tahini pesto for Rosh Hashanah. This is where I shine.) I live in the NE US, and am of Polish, Irish, and Quebecois descent. I've learned how to make my ancestral foods, but I want to branch out to more international dishes. We don't keep kosher. I'm not terrifically fond of red meat, but am willing to explore more offal based dishes. Veg* dishes are especially welcome, as are any dishes that come with a homemade bread. Please share with me your favorite dishes.
posted by Ruki to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Avocado maki (a kind of sushi). May take you two tries to master it, but awesome once you do. Investment: some rice vinegar and a bamboo mat.
posted by amtho at 8:22 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dumplings! Some are trickier than others, all are delicious, and many freeze well.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 8:58 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just learned to make chilaquiles since I moved to New Mexico. It's fairly simple and really delicious. You can have it for breakfast or dinner.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:00 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you are in an area where you can get tahini and pomegranates and other Middle Eastern ingredients, you might really like Plenty and Jerusalem, as well as Paula Wolfert's book of Moroccan food. The recipes are pleasantly engaging but not French Laundry-level complex. The roasted eggplants with yogurt and pomegranates from Plenty are wonderful, and the chicken with preserved lemons and olives from the Moroccan cookbook is amazingly delicious with couscous.

You might also enjoy Claudia Roden's books of Spanish food.
posted by Lycaste at 9:00 PM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I came to say dumplings too! Maangchi has step by step instructions for making dumpling wrappers from scratch for Korean mandu as well as some recipes for mandu fillings and techniques. You can easily expand these into other East Asian dumplings or tweak them for vegetarian versions. But there's a kind of dumpling in practically every cuisine in the world, so you could do a global culinary dumpling tour. Wow, now I'm hungry.
posted by Mizu at 9:08 PM on September 28, 2016

This Independent list of vegetarian cookbooks should give you some ideas. As will this list of Indian cookbooks. I recommend anything by Madhur Jaffrey, she's amazing.
posted by Tamanna at 9:08 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I should have added that dumplings, pho, and paella are firmly in the mister's domain. I am game to make the wrappers, though! These are great answers!
posted by Ruki at 9:23 PM on September 28, 2016

I just made this tonight and have made similar sir fried cabbage recipes before. You can add meat, subtract it, work in ginger, more or less heat. One of my favorite things to do (and unique to most American paletes) is to add in Sichuan peppercorns.
posted by Carillon at 9:37 PM on September 28, 2016

Perhaps somewhere beyond the rainbow on the French-Cajun-Italian arc is the Portuguese-Anglo-Indian nexus of vindaloo. I'm not sure whether I've ever had it at a restaurant but my own attempts at shrimp vindaloo based on a melange of googled recipes have always come out incredible; it might not quite fit your request because I certainly have no sophistication, but have been able to pull it off repeatedly.
posted by XMLicious at 9:57 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Last follow up, so as not to thread sit. Our take out rotation is Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese (sushi), and Indian. And pizza, which we also make at home. I'd like to make things outside our take out zone.
posted by Ruki at 10:37 PM on September 28, 2016

Gumbo z'herbes. I am Cajun and can certify authenticity.

Protip: the trick with gumbo is to get the roux as dark as you possibly can without burning it.
posted by waffleriot at 10:38 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Indian dishes? This butter chicken recipe adapted from Madhur Jaffrey (I learned to cook tons of Indian food from her cookbooks) is amazing.
posted by ananci at 10:58 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar space to you at the moment: looking to expand my cooking horizons with new adventures.

I've developed something of an obsession with the website Serious Eats recently as an incredibly reliable source of new recipes - I've not had a single recipe I've tried from there turn out bad, to the point that I now search there before looking anywhere else. The site is great for browsing too - just a few minutes ago I got excited by their newly published Shakshuka recipe by Kenji, my favorite author there.
posted by simonw at 11:57 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Qabuli Pulao - I always make it with chicken.

There are endless varities of schnitzel. Try homemade spaetzle with one.

Mulgi kapsad is a very comforting recipe from Estonia.

Farmer's cheese cookies. The easiest cookies and they are by far my favorites. I am not much for baking but these are fun to make and not too sweet. The linked website has loads of Russian recipes. You and the mister can double team some pelmeni, which are the holy grail of dumplings.
posted by tippy at 11:59 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Veggie Ramen can be quite a hit and really nice for dinner or lunch. We're definitely not talking the instant stuff.

You can opt for as authentic of ingredients as you like, or substitute for your favorites (I don't do fungus, but love onions, peppers, and sprouts). Getting the rice noodles just right can be a challenge, but super rewarding when they turn out.
posted by elected_potato at 2:17 AM on September 29, 2016

How about getting an Instant Pot to open up a whole new way of cooking? And then once you've mastered that you can get a sous vide insert for it, too. As far as what to cook, how about trying to make your own mole sauce with the instant pot? Also pulled pork. You can make great butter chicken using a serious eats instant pot recipe, and then make naan bread to go with it (or chapattis which are very easy).
posted by hazyjane at 3:42 AM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Whole heartedly seconding the ottolenghi recommendations above - plenty, plenty more, and Jerusalem are some of the most beautiful and well written cookbooks I own (and I have something of a cookbook problem.)

If you're comfortable in the Ashkenazic jewish tradition I would strongly recommend checking out a copy of Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food. She is from Egypt and it does a great job representing Jewish traditions from all over the world, the written histories and descriptions are great and the recipes are well tested and clear.

In the offal-curious and Cajun vein, have you made dirty rice? Even my liver averse spouse has been convinced it's pretty great.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 4:42 AM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thirding Ottolenghi, and also David Tanis's One Good Dish, although more for a refresh, and considering new ingredients, than for techniques.

Sushi rolling sounds like a good possibility for you too; you could take a class.
posted by BibiRose at 6:11 AM on September 29, 2016

Shakshuka? It's a Tunisian dish of spicy tomato sauce and eggs, sprinkled with feta and eaten with roasted pitas. It's divine.
posted by valoius at 8:34 AM on September 29, 2016

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