"This is not a Saffron cookbook," says chef Sameh Wadi, the culinary force behind the downtown Minneapolis restaurant by that name, as well as Uptown's global fast-casual World Street Kitchen.
What he means is this won't just be a compendium of recipes he's served over the eight years his first restaurant has been in business. But like Saffron, the book will focus broadly on Mediterranean cuisine, with a heavy focus on the eastern part of the region.
Wadi says he's always wanted to write a cookbook that is "deeply rooted in the Nomadic lifestyle of my people."
The book will of course include some recipes from his restaurants, favorites like the fried cauliflower, hummus, tagines, and the slow cooked green beans -- his grandmother's recipe.
Part of the desire to write a book stems from the partially finished one his parents put together in the '80s, which they'd titled The Encyclopedia of Palestinian Cuisine. It was culled from years of collecting recipes from friends, family, their own kitchen, and almost every restaurant in Palestine. That artifact still sits on Sameh Wadi's office desk, and he turns to it for inspiration.
"There are things in there like stuffed vegetables -- pretty much any vegetable you can imagine, they've stuffed it. I mean, can you imagine a stuffed carrot?"
Will that appear in the book?
"Fuck no," he laughs. "That's too labor intensive for me."
But he does hint that some of those recipes may appear.
He's not giving away too many more secrets. He only says the book will have beautiful photography, and be easy enough for the passionate home cook to use regularly. There will also be stories of his personal connections to the dishes scattered throughout.
"It will be a glimpse into the mind of a chef," he says.
While Wadi gives much credit to his mother for his formative culinary training, he didn't turn to her for help on the project.
"Instead I tried to channel my mom when I was writing," he says.
The New Mediterranean Table will be available spring of next year at book stores everywhere.
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