2017, Weldon Owen, 978-1-68188-303-8, $35 hb.
The culture of the Caucasus—that vast and rugged Central Asian territory sweeping eastward from the Black Sea through Georgia, Armenia, southern Russia, northern Iran and Azerbaijan to the banks of the Caspian Sea—is “intertwined” and “interwoven” with “cooking techniques and dishes shared and borrowed,” writes Hercules. This is understandable, as the region has been variously ruled by Arabs, Mongols, Persians and Ottomans, each of whom left their culinary stamp, characterized by hearty fare, on the mountainous landscape. Lamb is favored in dishes like chakhapuli, young lamb stewed with herbs and spices common to Arab cuisine (coriander, fenugreek, tarragon, mint and lots of garlic), tinged with the acidic juice of sour plums. Ground lamb, along with onion and molasses, likewise figures in qutab, stuffed breads that can also be filled with herbs and cheese or squash and pomegranate (a Persian touch). Buckwheat ice cream—rich and nutty—is an unusual treat for dessert. Beautifully illustrated with informative headnotes, this cookbook is an ode to a richly diverse cuisine.