Lavash: Trio Launch Modern Cookbook on Ancient Cuisine

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LOS ANGELES — If you take the best features of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine — fresh produce, lively flavors, approachable dishes — and swirl them with the finest traditions of central Europe and Russia, you have Armenian cuisine. Think skewered, grilled meats; a table laden with delicious salads and stuffed vegetables; a variety of soups and porridges; and thin, chewy lavash bread to wrap or scoop up every drop.

A new book, Lavash: The Bread that Launched 1,000 Meals, Plus Salads, Stews, and Other Recipes From Armenia, part cookbook and part travelogue, hopes to take readers to unexplored destinations.

The book will be out on October 29. It is by Kate Leahy, John Lee and Ara Zada, with Lee also responsible for the photographs.

Armenia is a land of kind people, tantalizing foods, strong spirits, and fascinating history. Many centuries ago, it is where trade paths merged, bringing together flavors from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. It’s where entire villages venture into the fields and hills to gather wild herbs; local lavash bakeries are social hubs, and every home has a stash of pickled vegetables.

With growing interest in fermentation and the medical benefits of a Mediterranean diet, Armenian food offers a new take on healthful deliciousness.

The three Lavash authors, from left, John Lee, Ara Zada and Kate Leahy
(Raffi Youredjian photo)

More than 60 recipes — arranged by course — cover authentic breads and everything you eat with them. Lavash features the many flatbreads of Armenia — lavash (a UNESCO-heritage bread), herb-stuffed jingalov hats, focaccia-like matnakash, and others — and provides techniques to make them easy to prepare in your home kitchen. It also explores stuffed vegetables, salads, soups, pickles, sweets, and meals for feasting.

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For both armchair travelers and home cooks, Lavash is a book as enticing in the reading as its recipes are to the palate. There is no finer way to understand a culture than to taste its foods. Lavash takes you through the gorgeous Armenian landscape, its proud and tragic history, and the hope of the now.

Kate Leahy has written or edited more than nine books on food and wine, including A16 Food + Wine, an IACP Cookbook of the Year and winner of the Julia Child best first book award. Prior to writing, she spent five years cooking on the line at James Beard award-winning restaurants in California and Boston. Years before joining forces with John Lee and Ara Zada to write Lavash, she did a deep dive into Armenian-American foodways for a research paper published in Explorations, a University of California at Davis academic journal. Kate lives in San Francisco.

John Lee is an award-winning photojournalist working primarily in gastronomy and portraiture. He was a staff photographer for the Chicago Tribune from 1996 to 2005, covering presidential campaigns, the rise of China, civil unrest in Haiti, Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan and Indonesia, and the war in Iraq. He was also part of the team of journalists at the Tribune who won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for its profile of the chaotic American air traffic system. Since leaving the Chicago Tribune in 2005, he has photographed more than two dozen cookbooks. John is based in San Francisco and Singapore.

Ara Zada grew up in an Armenian-Egyptian household in Southern California. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, and worked for Jaime Oliver on the television show “Food Revolution.” He was culinary instructor for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation’s mobile teaching kitchen in Los Angeles. He was also a food stylist for ABC, CBS, NBC, and the Food Network. He has led numerous cooking workshops, including in Armenia for Tumo Center for Creative Technology’s culinary atelier. He is currently executive chef at Fresh Gourmet Cuisine. He is an avid wild game bow hunter. He lives in Los Angeles.

The book has received praise from some well-known names. Marcus Samuelsson, the award-winning chef, restauranteur, and co-owner of Red Rooster Harlem, has said, “Lavash takes readers on a colorful culinary journey to Armenia, past and present. From its investigation into the history of that part of the world to its vivid images and diverse recipes, this book explores what Armenian cuisine looks like today in a very authentic and beautiful way.”

And Serj Tankian, poet, visual artist, activist, composer, and former lead vocalist for System of a Down said, “Lavash is an incredibly complete book of foods from Armenia, part cookbook, part coffee table photo journal, and part history book. The culinary culture of Armenia is ancient, profound, and a doorway to understanding the people and culture of that country—and this book and John Lee’s incredible photos truly do justice to this culinary tradition.”

Topics: Cookbook, Food

“At last, Armenian food gets its due! Lavash takes us on a captivating journey through Armenia, sharing stories of this ancient land’s history and people, along with the secrets of its remarkable cuisine. The flatbread recipes alone are worth the price of the book, but there’s so much more revealed here— piquant salads, whole-grain porridges, and soothing soups and stews. This eye-opening book belongs on every library shelf and kitchen counter.”

The authors are on a tour of the country.

The following are a few of the dates:

 

 

October 24: San Francisco, Noon, 3pm & 7pm, Popup Lunch & Dinner, Noosh2001 Fillmore St. San Francisco, CA

October 26: San Francisco, 3pm, Talk & Book Signing (free event), Omnivore Books on Food, 3885 Cesar Chavez, San Francisco

 

October 29: GLENDALE, 7:30pm, Official Book Launch: Talk & Book Signing (free event), Abril Books, 415 E. Broadway, Glendale

 

November 13: CAMBRIDGE, Mass., 6:30pm, Conversation & Book Signing, Elmendorf Baking Supplies and Café, 594 Cambridge St., Cambridge

 

November 14: BELMONT, Mass., 7pm, Talk & Book Signing (free event), Belmont Books, 79 Leonard St., Belmont

To see more photos or find out about recipes, visit www.lavashthebook.com.

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