What do chefs in the best restaurants serve their staff? In Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants (Welcome Books, $40) Marissa Guggiana takes readers behind the scenes and into the kitchens of places like Galatoire’s in New Orleans, Franny’s in Brooklyn, and The Tabard Inn here in D.C. The recipes vary from sandwiches to stews—nothing too fancy here—but the attention is on the flavors. Shepherd’s pie, buttermilk fried chicken, jambalaya, and chorizo empañadas are just a few of the highlighted recipes, typifying an assortment that is simple yet imaginative, fit for family and friends.
Paula Wolfert has been visiting Moroccan markets and kitchens for fifty years. By now she knows what she likes, and she presents her favorite dishes—most of them easily manageable by a novice cook—in The Food of Morocco (Ecco, $45). Several years ago I spent ten days eating my way from Fes to Rabat to Marrakech, and many of Wolfert’s recipes evoke pleasurable memories of this delicious and low-cholesterol Mediterranean cuisine. (I always substitute olive oil for butter in the tangine.) No tangine? No problem. Wolfert says it’s desirable, but not necessary. I’ve consistently achieved success with tangine maghdor (seared lamb kabobs) with a clay pot in the oven. You’ll find myriad ways to combine chicken, lemons, olives, and olive oil here to make a month’s worth of tasty dishes.
With Mourad: New Moroccan (Artisan, $40) Mourad Lahlou, chef of San Francisco’s Aziza restaurant, offers a fascinating, innovative counterpoint to traditional Moroccan fare. While the cookbook’s first half is an in-depth introduction to seven Moroccan staples (spices, chermoula, tagines), the second half—a tour through his Aziza menus—takes flight into uncharted realms of creativity. Lahlou grounds his cooking in the memories of his Casablanca childhood, but he is firmly dedicated to pushing the boundaries of Moroccan cuisine. His recipes are serious and ambitious, and the rewards can be extraordinary. His tone throughout is also refreshingly forthright (the chapter that might make you laugh out loud? “Dude, Preserved Lemons.”)