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Gifts for cooks: 'New American Table'

December 5, 2009 |  6:02 am

MarcusChef Marcus Samuelsson dedicates his book about American food to people who were not born here – because, of course, it’s the foods and recipes that immigrants brought from the rest of the world that helps make American food so interesting.

An immigrant himself, Samuelsson (Ethiopian-born and raised in Sweden) portrays himself like a kid in a candy store as he discovers Pacific Northwest salmon; barbecue from Texas, Kansas and North Carolina; Creole cooking in New Orleans; Vermont cheese and Maryland crabs, among many other things.

Samuelsson is best known as the chef and co-owner of the New York City restaurant Aquavit; the First Family brought him to Washington to help prepare President Obama’s state dinner earlier this month.

“New American Table” is so much fun to page through, with pictures by Paul Brissman of the food but also of the people who make it and the places it comes from all over the U.S. (I would have liked some captions, however.) He celebrates home cooking and high cuisine, offering what he calls a “tablescape” of American food. And he’s such a fan of his adopted country, praising “America’s open heart, its limitless capacity to embrace change and to reinvent itself, and its insatiable hunger for a new experience.” Such love, despite a breakfast he recalls being served in Dallas: burgers and doughnuts.

Many of the recipes in “New American Table” run traditional dishes through an international food processor and come up with startling results: flatbread with cured salmon and mozzarella cheese; latkes with an apple-horseradish and wasabi sauce; shrimp falafel; Argentinian empanadas with Indonesian-style sambal. Others are inspired by his travels: shrimp patties that are a riff on African bean fritters; roasted nuts with Michigan cherries; lobster rolls and much more.

-- Mary MacVean

New American Table, by Marcus Samuelsson, Wiley, $40. Cover photograph by Paul Brissman