I’ve culled my cookbook collection to only two (and a half) shelves, so I have to be extremely discerning when adding to it. My poor particle board shelves are already sagging under pounds of food porn. When one lives in an apartment with two kids and a husband, bookshelf space is at a premium. After spending a week thumbing through Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home by Marcus Samuelsson, I hope my 10-year-old bookshelf can handle one more glossy hardcover. The cookbook is keeper after my kids cried because they ate all of Marcus’ Peanut Noodles with Slaw and there were no leftovers.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I purchased Marcus Off Duty, but I know that he’s passionate about incorporating his multicultural experiences in his dishes. It’s not just his Ethiopian birth or his Swedish heritage that we see. He’s traveled all over the world to hone his skills as a professional chef. Everywhere he went, he learned as much as he could about that country’s food. (I highly recommend his memoir Yes, Chef.) Marcus Off Duty is a collective of all his food and life experiences so far.
Side note: I’m going to see Marcus Samuelsson speak tomorrow at National Geographic Museum. It’s not too late to get tickets–there’s even a reception afterwards featuring his favorite recipes. Can you tell I’m excited to see him again?
As a Vietnamese American who grew up in the food mecca of Louisiana and married into an African American family, this cookbook resonates with me. In my kitchen pantry you’ll find rice noodles next to a can of refried beans, tapioca pearls and quinoa. I’ve got jars of five spice powder and garam masala next to my oregano and bbq spice rubs. The food we eat is a collection of our past adventures. I love this photo of his some of Marcus’ pantry items.
Bright, juicy photographs are expected in cookbooks these days. There’s a photograph or drawing on almost every page of Marcus Off Duty. Not only does Marcus share dishes that he and his wife Maya makes at home, he tells stories about his travels and the people he meets. The recipes aren’t fussy, though you might have to go to specialty stores to find ingredients like kimchi or tamarind paste. Most recipes use ingredients that are found at your regular supermarket.
Each chapter is themed, focusing on grilling, street food, soups, comfort food, and even cooking with kids. Besides the peanut noodles, I bookmarked several other recipes to try:
- bacon biscuits with jalapeno scrambled eggs and grilled corn (sounds like good hangover food)
- seared scallops with bacon and egg (on a bed of frisee)
- steamed catfish with citrus-soy vinaigrette
- roast beef tenderloin with coffee-chocolate crust
- cheddar-crusted apple pie (my midwestern born husband would love this)
Sophia and Jaxson love to help in the kitchen. We tried the peanut noodles because I had most of the ingredients on hand and it was simple to make. (It’s from the cooking with kids chapter.) The recipe calls for soba noodles, with possible substitutions of ramen noodles or spaghetti. We used whole wheat spaghetti because it’s one of our pantry staples. I think soba noodles would make this dish heartier.
I cooked the noodles ahead, but the kids did everything else. They measured, poured, and whisked the ingredients for the peanut vinaigrette. The recipe calls for mixing the fresh veggies into the noodle right before serving, but we set out the components tableside. This way each kid could choose what they wanted in their noodles. I also added some leftover shredded rotisserie chicken as a mix-in.
We’re definitely adding Marcus’ peanut noodles and slaw to our dinner repertoire. Next time I’ll toss in some chunks of tofu. Definitely try out the recipe (see below) and let me know what you think. I’m sure this would work equally well with almond butter.
If you’re looking for a cookbook that offers creative, but comforting recipes, you’ll want a copy of Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home by Marcus Samuelsson.
- FOR THE PEANUT VINAIGRETTE
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ⅓ cup creamy peanut butter
- ⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons agave syrup
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
- FOR THE NOODLES
- 1 pound soba noodles (or ramen noodles or spaghetti), cooked until al dente
- 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce leaves
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled and shaved with a vegetable peeler
- 4 Napa cabbage leaves, finely shredded
- 2 tablespoons ripped fresh cilantro leaves
- ⅓ cup chopped roasted salted peanuts or cashews
- MAKE THE PEANUT VINAIGRETTE: Whisk all the ingredients in a large bowl.
- MAKE THE NOODLES: 2. Add the noodles to the vinaigrette and toss until the noodles are evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the noodles are cold, at least 1 hour.
- Toss in the lettuce, cucumber, carrot, and cabbage. Garnish with the cilantro and peanuts and serve.
- Have the kids whisk the vinaigrette and rip up the cilantro. And have them was their hands so they can toss the noodles and sauce together.
Excerpted from Marcus Off Duty © 2014 by Marcus Samuelsson. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. This post contains affiliate links.