New (to me) int'l cuisines and recipes?
My cooking tends to stay within the range of Thai, Indian, Italian, Mexican and "American" (whatever that means). I'm by no means a master of these cuisines, but I can throw together a tasty curry or a homemade lasagna without too many disasters. I'm an experimental cook, but I still feel like I've hit a rut. I'd like to embark on a whole new ethnic/regional cuisine that goes beyond my typical cooking comfort zone, preferably with fairly easy to find ingredients. I could pick a country of the top of my head and go, but I'd rather hear from y'all. What new cuisine should I try, and can you recommend a recipe as an example? (only limit: preferably not seafood based).
There is LOTS of mexican to explore. Go into the moles and stews, the different regions. Try ther Bayless books, they are wonderful.
Indiam food, also has so many regional recipes, it is also worth a deeper explore.
To me, if you wish to explore a wholely new culture, try Japanese. From the ceremonial to the street food, huge huge bunches of wonderful exploring available. As well as ingredients.
I agree about exploring the distinct regions of your already-favorite places.
If you like Mexican stews and moles, you would love Guatemalan jocón. The cuisine of Guatemala is fabulous. If you like southeast Asian flavors, I would also recommend Indonesian. Their food varies greatly by region.
There is a thread here that I think does a new cookbook every month. Check out the Arabesque thread- the recipes soudf delightful and maybe you can check the book out from the library to pre-view.
i like to experiment with sorta-new things too (or things that never occurred to me to try at home). i'm sort of an impulse cooker - i don't often make special shopping trips, use exact recipes (usually don't use recipes at all), and i'm vegetarian so everything i make is usually a stretch from its traditional method... usually i study a region's spice blends and then i go out improvising. on my recent list have been spanish food (paella - i made a veggie version, no seafood or meat. also those patatas bravas that you can get at all those spanish tapas restaurants... and sangria!)... vegetarianising pho (this actually came out quite good!)... and soul food, again, done vegetarian - grits, greens, etc. i'm also trying to perfect a chinese egg drop soup but this is proving tough!!
i've also started on a back-to-basics kick, doing 100% of my shopping at philly's reading terminal market (a large indoor daily food market) from the produce stands and the amish vendors, trying to buy my food in its most natural, whole state and making everything from scratch. this has proved the biggest challenge in my cooking - and also has been the biggest improvement in taste!
Just to play devil's advocate, maybe you don't need another cuisine. Maybe you could move up from your comfort zone to more involved recipes that will strain you a bit. There are a couple of highly regarded cookbooks about the southwest of France which people are describing as very involved. I have also read the same thing about Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Even if you don't follow recipes, books like these might give you new techniques to do riffs on.
There are a lot of good ideas for you here already, but if you really want a new palate of flavors to work with, why not try Greek/Mediterranean? This type of cooking is very fresh and wonderful for summer, plus its very distinct without being especially exotic or requiring difficult to find ingredients. Granted there are probably a lot of fish recipes out there, but there are plenty of meat recipes as well, involving a lot of lamb, and lots of vegetables.
Persian food might interest you. Most of the ingredients are relatively easy to find. Lots of fresh herbs used. Lots of interesting combinations of meats and fruits.. Spicing tends to be fairly subtle and without heat. Basmati rice is common. Recommended cookbooks: New Food of Life by Batmanglij, Persian Cuisine-Traditional, Regional, and Modern by Ghanoonparvar, and Persian Cooking by Ramazani.
You might like to try Puerto Rican or Cuban which resemble each other in that they involve a lot of bell pepper, onion, garlic, and similar spicing. Probably the biggest difference is Cuban's frequent use of seville orange juice while Puerto Rican tends to use lime or lemon juice and vinegar for the sour element. I don't recall achiote being used in Cuban cooking but it's fairly common in Puerto Rican. Neither cuisine is spicy hot. Most of the ingredients aren't too hard to find(if seville orange juice is difficult to find other citrus juices can be substituted--a combination of grapefruit juice, orange juice, and lime juice has worked best for me.) Rec. cookbooks: Memories of a Cuban Kitchen by Randelman and Puerto Rican Cuisine in America by Rivera.
I also like the Indonesian suggestion. Rec. cookbook: Cradle of Flavor by Oseland.