Sarah Hodge is a linguist and ESL instructor by trade; fluent in three languages, she’s currently working on mastering Japanese. Food writing and cookbook reviewing is her creative outlet. In 2014, she launched her cookbook blog Bundt Lust as a place to consolidate her many cookbook reviews and to connect with like-minded cookbook enthusiasts worldwide. In addition to being an Amazon Top Reviewer specializing in cookbook reviews, she is a member of NetGalley and Blogging for Books and also contributed reviews for several online publications including Mediterranean Living. Her favorite genres are baking, Mediterranean / Middle Eastern (especially Turkish and Sephardic cuisine), Persian, Indian, Japanese and vegetarian (particularly shojin ryori and temple cuisine). In addition to food writing, Sarah enjoys digital photography, travel and taking hands-on cooking classes around the world; she has lived in five countries and taken more than 100 cooking classes. Sarah currently lives in Japan.Read More
I am fortunate enough to take regular classes with Andoh-san at her “Taste of Culture” cooking program in Tokyo. Her “Washoku” and companion volume “Kansha” are absolute must-haves into understanding the foundations of classical Japanese cuisine (washoku), which was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2013. “Washoku” focuses on the guiding principles and key ingredients of washoku (including meat and seafood dishes), while “Kansha” is entirely vegan and based upon Buddhist temple cuisine (which in turn has influenced washoku and kaiseki (Japanese haute cuisine). This is as close to Japan as you can get without hopping on a plane; itadakimasu!
Although I’m a longtime fan of Israeli cuisine, “Plenty” injected new life into my vegetarian kitchen. Combining traditional Israeli / Middle Eastern ingredients (tahini, silan, pomegranate seeds and molasses) with classic European and Asian dishes (risotto, frittata, polenta, soba and glass noodles), Yotam’s dishes revitalized my previously boring, predictable dinner menus. Prep is for the most part simple, with a mere handful of ingredients combining to create memorable dishes that you’ll want to make again and again. Personal favorites include the eggplant with buttermilk sauce, crusted pumpkin wedges with sour cream, and lemon and goat cheese ravioli.
Sabrina’s debut “Persiana” collects Persian-influenced dishes like eggplant chermoula, maast o khiar, khoresht and Moroccan tagines, yogurt and saffron-marinated meats and poultry, and jeweled veggie and grain salads and pilafs. The desserts also merit special mention, with cinnamon and citrus almond pastry cigars (a simplified m’hencha), pistachio, rose, and raspberry madeleines, cardamom and rosewater poached pears, and pistachio, honey and orange blossom ice cream. Her sophomore book “Sirocco” continues where “Persiana” left off, featuring 100 recipes for moreish Middle Eastern dishes such as a chickpea, butternut squash, preserved lemon and harissa tagine, mushroom, artichoke and feta swirls, and plenty of great appetizer and salad ideas. Your kitchen will be perfumed with the scents of the East!
I’ve had the pleasure of teaching numerous students from Azerbaijan, and they were always willing and gracious to share their culture with me. Azerbaijani cuisine features influences from neighboring Turkey, Georgia, Russia (salad Olivier, known in Azerbaijan as “Capital Salad”) and Iran (polos, kukus, khoresht, fesenjoon). The incredible diversity from its various regions offers multiple variations to try; personal favorites include the pierogi-like half-moon dumplings with butternut squash and farmers cheese, the flaky flatbread and shorgoghal, as well as the delicately layered almond pastries, but you can’t go wrong with any of the recipes in this Gourmand Best in the World -award-winning book!
Ana’s first book “Spice” is one of my absolute favorites in my large collection, and her new “Soframiz” is my Top Book of 2016. Full of the delightful baked goods and homestyle dishes of the Middle East, from Lebanese flatbread “pizzas” to homemade yufka dough and stuffed breads, breakfasts (shakshouka, egg-fried rice with sujuk, flower pogaca rolls) to blissful desserts like date espresso ma’amoul, marzipan cookies with figs and walnuts, chocolate hazelnut baklava, and Persian love cake, “Soframiz” is rounded out with a large range of pantry staples such as pickled veggies, homemade spice blends, and pumpkin jam.
Written by a Zen abbess in Kyoto, this sadly out-of-print gem is my bible for shojin ryori, the elaborate vegan cuisine of Japan’s Buddhist monks. Shojin ryori is about balance, reflection, and nutrition, and also relies on elaborate plating and appearance. The helpful line drawings and gorgeous color photos with suggested plating is immensely helpful if you find yourself thousands of miles from the nearest monastery! Menus are arranged seasonally, from sansai (mountain vegetables) in spring to sturdier root vegetables and preserved dishes in winter. Another modern winner is Danny Chu’s “Shojin Ryori.”
Although I have a good number of Indian titles in my collection (including the excellent “Curry Easy Vegetarian” by Madhur Jaffrey, “Secrets from my Indian Family Kitchen” by Anjali Pathak, and both Prashad cookbooks, “Made in India, Cooked in Britain” is immensely approachable, with its step-by-step photos, colorful vintage advertisements, and delightful prose (“lamb and cinnamon have always been natural flirts; throw tomatoes in, and you’ve got an ingredient love triangle”). Dishes include a wide range of appetizers, meat and veg curries (creamy chicken and fig curry, pistachio and yoghurt chicken curry, roasted butternut squash curry with garlic and tomatoes, cinnamon lamb, coconut and tamarind chicken), lamb and poultry, delightful seafood dishes (fish in a coriander, coconut and mint parcel, 20-minute fish curry), eggs, chutneys, pickles, and desserts (saffron shrikhand with passion fruit, chai-spiced chocolate puddings, love cake with cardamom and pomegranate shrikhand). I’ve also had Meera’s sophomore vegetarian cookbook “Fresh India” preordered since last year and am greatly looking forward to cooking from it this summer!
This was one of my first Spotlight Reviews on Amazon, and still my favorite baking book in my collection. With fun, tongue-in-cheek twists on classic comfort bakes, I’ve made at least half the recipes in this book and people always beg for the secret! From the addictive pumpkin chocolate chip bread, lemon lemon loaf, and swoon-worthy Baked brownie to diner-style pies, icebox cakes, ice cream and fudgesicles, cookies and bar cookies, and even boozy milkshakes, these gems are sure to bring a smile to your face. Have plenty of napkins on hand, you’ll need them!
The second in a four-book series, “Sugared Orange” captures the feel, smells, and tastes of Poland in winter. I grew up in a Polish household, and many of these dishes resonated with me; my babcia would prepare cabbage and mushrooms, poppyseed pancakes, cabbage rolls, Christmas Eve cabbage with split peas, and more. The vintage illustrations, photography, and parchment overlays are simply stunning.
As a huge fan of Israeli and Sephardic cooking, “Zahav,” combines my love of all things Israeli (silan, hummus, tahini, halvah) and Sephardic (borekas, albondigas, fritas de prasa). His hummus recipe is out-of-this-world good, and this is coming from someone with dozens of Middle Eastern cookbooks (including the Hummus Bros. cookbook from the UK). Other gems include the wide range of salads, vegetables, Persian-style pilafs, homemade breads and a standout dessert section with well-known favorites such as rugelach, babka, konafi, basboosa, poppyseed cake and Turkish coffee ice cream.
I LOVE cooking to music, and since I’m normally cooking international cuisine, have an appropriate playlist to match. For Mediterranean dishes, I love to listen to Greek music like the Zorba the Greek and My Big Fat Greek Wedding instrumental soundtracks; for Japanese/Asian, my absolute favorite is “Japanese Dinner Classics” from CBS Masterworks by Yo-Yo Ma and Jean-Pierre Rampal (with liner notes and recipes by Martha Stewart). If I’m looking for a mellow, relaxed summer vibe, I’ll throw on Coralie Clement’s “Salle Des Pas Perdus” (in the spirit of 1960s French pop and Astrud Gilberto) or Melody Gardot’s “My One and Only Thrill.” And of course classic Motown is frequently in rotation, especially the Isley Brothers’ Motown Anthology, the Japanese reissue of Stevie Wonder’s stellar 1967 album “I Was Made To Love Her” (with killer covers of Bobby Bland, James Brown, Otis Redding and Stevie’s fellow Motown artists) and The Four Tops’ “Live At The Roostertail.”Listen to Sarah's playlist