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The Simple Art of Rice: Recipes from Around the World for the Heart of Your Table

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by JJ Johnson and Danica Novgorodoff
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Evocative and beautiful, this book showcases rice varieties and dishes in an enticing testimony to the grain’s versatility and importance.

Chef JJ Johnson, whose FieldTrip restaurants in NYC offer rice dishes from global cuisine, has collaborated with writer and illustrator Danica Novgorodoff to create the book. In recipes drawn from five continents and countless cultures, they introduce us to major varieties and multiple cooking methods, as well as the rich and complex history of rice cultivation and consumption.

The prevalence of rice in different, closely-related cuisines is well summed up in a note that just what a particular dish is called “depends on where you’re from and whose granny’s kitchen you’re visiting.”

Some of the dishes do seem straight out of the kitchens of hardworking cooks who rely on familiar flavorings such as Sazón with achiote or canned beans. But Johnson’s background as a chef means that a page or two later he’s offering you a cluster of home spice blends which you can employ and customize.

Good ideas abound. Beef-and-rice stuffed collard greens are a spin on Middle Eastern dolmas (which usually rely on grape leaves). A Japanese-style chilled broth over rice—appealing on a summer day—contrasts the richness of the broth with rice vinegar and the heat of some chili oil with a smidgen of sugar. Savory black rice grits with roasted okra salutes the African contribution to rice culture in the New World in a gorgeous display of contrasting colors, textures, and flavors.

Impressively thorough and highly imaginative.

Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.

Published: September 12, 2023

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