Lucid Food arrives, already a present, gorgeous with scrolling artwork and vibrant images, wrapped and ready. I am enamored. Also, I am hungry. Thumbing past photography for Chickpea Cakes with a verdant green Cilantro-Jalapeno Sauce, Fall Fruit Focaccia succulent with apple wedges, Crispy Yuba Rolls that look toasty brown and crunchy, ready to dip, I confess to some absent-minded lip licking. On the second pass, I’m stuck on the Ash-e-reshteh, or Persian New Year’s Soup with Beans, Noodles and Herbs, all the colorful, herby bits crowded into a steaming bowl.
Louisa Shafia knows how to eat well, fashioning meals from quality produce and local fare. Nestled amid the recipes are the nuggets of valuable health information that expand Lucid Food from a mere (heavenly) cookbook to kitchen notebook. Shafia’s voice, warm and genuine, weaves her decades of food knowledge throughout the book, sharing her notes on sustainability, locality, and old-fashioned DIY values.
I’ll admit I am obsessed with the new wave of seasonal collections. Particularly, I enjoy the variety of produce that pop up in these, even if it isn’t always available in rural Kansas. These are people bedeviled by produce. (My kind of people.) Shafia adds a rich reference to the home cook’s stash, reimagining tired winter vegetables into savory staples.
Poised to win a spot on my shelf of beloved, dog-eared cookbooks, Lucid Food serves up nearly 100 delectable recipes, only about a dozen featuring fish or meat. (It’s not frowned upon, don’t worry about harsh words; it’s simply not the focus here.) There aren’t photos of every recipe, but the photos included showcase lush preparations of plump, perfectly-cooked veggies with occasional animal proteins tucked in.
Shafia is one of the rare chefs able to communicate her intensity about quality, seasonal ingredients in amiable terms. No lectures here, simply facts and considerable inspiration for making dinnertime shine. And extraordinary food, with a little help from Shafia, speaks for itself.
Ten Speed Press, Softcover, November 2009
(Original review posted here)