American Flavor Cookbook By Chef Andrew Carmellini

Andrew Carmellini documents a lifetime of travel, in the U.S. and beyond

Although chef Andrew Carmellini has worked in some of New York's finest kitchens, including Lespinasse and Café Boulud, his recent cookbook, American Flavor ($35), is no homage to haute cuisine.

Instead, he focuses on road-trip eats from his childhood and on dishes his restaurants' immigrant staff members cook.

The resulting patchwork tells an intriguing and diverse story of American food over the past 20 years. From the goulash Carmellini grew up with in Cleveland to the not-quite-Italian crab toast that diners order in record-breaking numbers at Locanda Verde, the recipes in American Flavor are the touchstones of a cook's journey to becoming a chef.

Carmellini also includes anecdotes interspersed among the recipes; memories such as those about cooking for princesses at the St. Regis Hotel and eating grouper sandwiches at a bar in Florida before it became a tourist destination are welcome snapshots that bring an entertaining order to what might otherwise seem a hodgepodge.

We've dog-eared several recipes in the book, but right now, as the weather turns brisk, we're making the one for lamb chili with chickpeas and raita (click here to see), which was inspired by an apartment Carmellini lived in that was around the corner from the epic New York spice market Kalustyans.