Silk Road Vegetarian

Karen Berman

Dahlia Abraham-Klein’s new cookbook is a compilation of recipes that are geared for home cooks who are looking for gluten-free vegetarian and vegan options. The recipes hit the mark across the dietary-need board, but what make this book truly special is the Central Asian influence that emerges in so many of these dishes. Ms. Abraham-Klein’s family has extensive Bukharian Jewish roots; that is, they are descended from the ancient Israelites who journeyed East to Asia and wound up in what is now Afghanistan, Kurdistan and Northern India. Very few cookbooks have been written from this point of view—and fewer still with a Jewish bent, with a trained cook and teacher as author. The extensive spice palate and cooking techniques offer something new. That alone makes it altogether inviting.

What further sets this book apart is that she offers recipes that are perfect for the home cook—especially a newcomer to the kitchen or to the vegan kitchen—and makes you feel at ease with what could easily become exotica. This welcoming way with recipes really reflect her years of teaching cooking.

The recipes themselves are all quite simple, hearty and flavorful. The Afghan Eggplant Moussaka with Garlic Yogurt Dip is a creative amalgam from the surrounding regions and was delicious. I would pair it with chickpea or carrot salad and a super-dry white wine. The Bukharian Slow Cooked Rice with Dried Fruit has tinges of Persia’s famous Rice for a Queen and offers a lovely pilaf (or pilav or pilaw) technique that I will use again. I would pair it with a super-simple salt-pepper-olive-oil-marinated grilled protein, like a small white fish or tempeh (if you are vegetarian or vegan), and some long-cooked greens. It was even good cold the next day as a salad with tomatoes and herbs. The Steamed Rice with Egg and Saffron Crust? It was as good as it sounds and would be lovely on a buffet.

There are extensive sections on the spices in the Bukharian cupboard, as well as other basic vegan ingredients and their preparation (rice, tofu, etc.) and a discussion about food preservation. It all shows the depth of her knowledge, which is indeed very helpful, particularly if you are vegan or feed vegans and want solid, smart information right at hand. Ms. Abraham-Klein is an early adopter and strong advocate for Community Supported Agriculture, is a strong voice for composting—and even handles an earthworm farm. Her love of fresh produce and sustainable agriculture is clear in every recipe and every piece of advice.

(Full disclosure: The Weiser Kitchen’s senior content editor, Karen Berman, edited this book, which is how I learned of it, but the opinions expressed here are mine, honest and completely true. Did I mention that they are also correct?)

This book is more than a (primarily) vegan or vegetarian cookbook. It’s a terrific resource for gluten-free folks, with a wide variety of options and tastes. Silk Road Vegetarian by Dahlia Abraham-Klein is a genuinely approachable book, with recipes that really work. It’s  worthy of a special place in any international vegetarian or vegan cookbook collection.

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