The Immigrant Cookbook: Recipes that Make America Great is a compilation of recipes from over seventy chefs collected and edited by Leyla Moushabeck. These showcase favorite recipes and flavors brought to America from around the world including Kushari from Brenda Abdelall, Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo) from Charles Phan, Coconut Dream Fish from Ziggy Marley, Chicken with Charmoula from Mourad Lahlou, Donkaas Buttermilk Fried Pork from Thomas Kim, Mini Madeleines from Dominique Ansel, Fenugreek Fried Bread from Einat Admony, and so much more. I will also be sharing a recipe for Aarón Sánchez’s Carnitas Tacos following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Leyla Moushabeck is a longtime cookbook editor for Interlink Publishing. She was born to a Palestinian father and British mother and currently lives in Brooklyn with her Colombian husband and son. She has worked on numerous award-winning cookbooks including Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate Our Shared Humanity and The Aleppo Cookbook (I reviewed this book last year).
The chapters are divided according to course: Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Vegetables, Fish, Poultry, Meat, Desserts, and Snacks and Side Dishes.
Leyla Moushabeck begins with an introduction of this land created by immigrants, their importance, and the foods that bring us together while tying us to our heritage. She states: “As a collection, The Immigrant Cookbook reflects not only a celebration of diverse culinary traditions, but it captures the spirit of what makes America great.” And what a collection it is. In this book, you will find an incredible assortment of recipes from some incredibly inspiring people. Many of their contributions are treasured family recipes that carry special memories. A portion of the sales for each book will also be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union to support the Immigrants’ Rights Project.
The photography is provided by Ricarius Photography. Every single recipe is accompanied by a full-page photo of the finished dish along with a small profile shot of the chef. Each recipe also includes a headnote with background information on the dish and its origins, the chef’s biography, serving size, and menu ideas. Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric.
This book is a great pick for those interested in all the flavors immigrants bring to American cooking. Inspiration from countries all over the world can be found including Vietnam, India, Iran, France, Syria, Palestine, Taiwan, Morocco, Mexico, Australia, Peru, Uruguay, Belarus, El Salvador, Portugal, Denmark, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Senegal, Philippines, Colombia, and more. Many of the ingredients are readily available in the average American supermarket, but a few may require searching. Some more difficult to locate items include sushi grade fish, kombu, dried cranberry beans, brown lentils, preserved lemon, Berbere spice, tomatillos, doenjang, katsuobushi, queso fresco, kataifi, mahlab, glutinous rice flour, dried fenugreek leaves, nigella seeds, and gochugaru. The dishes range from easy appetizers and weeknight meals to longer cooking stews and more intricate baking.
This Carnitas Tacos recipe comes from Aarón Sánchez, an award-winning Mexican-American chef and TV personality. His tacos are a family favorite at large gatherings. Boneless pork shoulder is refrigerated overnight in a spiced brine, then baked in rendered pork fat until tender. The meat is tossed with chipotle peppers, orange, and lime juice before assembling on tortillas with crema, pickled red onions and/or jalapeño peppers, cucumber slices, and cilantro.
Chipotles en adobo are morita chipotles preserved in a tomato chile sauce called adobo. They can be found canned in the international section of most larger supermarkets.
Mexican crema is a dairy product similar to sour cream, but a bit thinner and more mild. It is available in some larger grocery stores and markets specializing in Mexican products. Aarón recommends substituting with sour cream for the Carnitas Tacos if you are unable to locate crema.
I also made Tichi’s Gazpacho, Irish Beef Stew, Jollof Rice, and Island Slaw.
Tichi’s Gazpacho comes from José Andrés, one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People” and Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation. He comes from the north of Spain while his wife (Tichi) comes from the south in Andalucía. He says his wife’s Gazpacho is one of the best in the world and I definitely agree that it is one of the best I have ever tried. Fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, garlic, sherry, vinegar, and olive oil are blended together to make a cool and refreshing soup. It is topped simply with toasted rustic bread, tomatoes, cucumber, and an additional drizzle of Spanish olive oil. I had the opportunity to see José Andrés cook in person in December and it was such an honor.
The recipe for Irish Beef Stew is provided by Cathal Armstrong, Dublin native and chef/owner of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia. This recipe is close to his heart and reminds him of his parents “who instilled the importance of home, culture, family, and locally sourced food.” Cubes of beef are browned on all sides, then slowly simmered with vegetables in beef broth until very tender. It was perfect for a chilly winter day.
Tunde Wey is a Nigerian cook and writer who has been traveling the country with his pop-up dinner series, Blackness in America. He shared this recipe for Jollof Rice, one of Nigeria’s most famous dishes. Rice is simmered in a mixture of blended tomatoes, peppers, onion, and spices until tender. The bottom layer of rice will develop a crisp crust with a little char that will help impart a smoky flavor to the dish.
The Island Slaw comes from Ron Duprat, known for combining his Caribbean heritage with French accents. He has made appearances on Bravo TV’s Top Chef, Iron Chef America, and Bar Rescue. He says “this recipe is a mix of Haitian culinary heritage, American ingredients, and my grandmother’s special touch” and recommends pairing it with grilled fish and meats, pork in particular. Shredded cabbage, scallions, red bell pepper, and red onion are tossed in a light yogurt cider vinegar dressing.
Carnitas Tacos Recipe
Excerpt from The Immigrant Cookbook, by Aarón Sánchez
- 3 1/2 pounds (1.5 kg) boneless pork shoulder
- 3-4 cups (1 1/3-1 3/4 lb, 600-800 g) rendered pork fat or lard, enough to mostly cover the meat
- Half a 7 ounce 200 g can chipotle peppers in adobo, or more to taste
- Juice of 1 orange
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 stick canella Mexican cinnamon
- 1 cup (7 ounces, 200 g) brown sugar
- 1 cup (8 oz, 225 g) kosher salt
- 18-24 small tortillas
- 1 cup (240 ml) Mexican crema or sour cream (optional)
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz, 100 g) pickled red onions (recipe below)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 115 g) pickled jalapeño peppers (optional)
- Cucumber slices seeds removed
- 1 bunch cilantro leaves separated
- Lime wedges
Pickled Red Onions or Jalapeño Peppers:
- 1-1 1/4 cups (240-300 ml) white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons table salt
- 1 cup (4 oz, 115 g) thinly sliced red onion or jalapeño peppers
In a nonreactive stockpot, combine the brine ingredients with enough water to cover the pork (about 8 1/2 cups, 2 liters). Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let cool completely. Add the pork to the pot, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
Once the pork has brined, preheat the oven to 275˚F (135˚C). Remove the pork from the brine, patting it dry with paper towels, and cut it into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces.
In a large Dutch oven, heat the fat over medium heat until it melts. Add the pork pieces, cover the pot, and roast in the oven until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. Transfer the meat to a mixing bowl, discarding the oil. Finely chop the chipotles and add them to the meat with their sauce. Add the orange and lime juice, toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble, spread each tortilla with crema, if using, and top with a generous amount of the seasoned pork. Sprinkle with the pickled onions and jalapeños, if using, and top with the cucumber slices, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime.
To make the pickled red onions or jalapeños:
In a small pot, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Place the onion or jalapeño slices in a jar or tub, pour in the vinegar mixture to completely cover them, seal, and refrigerate for at least one hour before using or up to several days.