Mediterranean Grains and Greens: A Book of Savory, Sun-Drenched Recipes

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9780060172510: Mediterranean Grains and Greens: A Book of Savory, Sun-Drenched Recipes

Paula Wolfert is passionate about the Mediterranean -- its landscape, its people, its culture, and above all, its rich culinary tradition. Her five earlier cookbooks celebrated the sensuous pleasures of the Mediterranean kitchen and introduced a previously uninitiated American audience to an exciting new way of cooking and eating.

In her eagerly awaited Mediterranean Grains and Greens, Wolfert continues that tradition, focusing on the delectable grains and greens-based dishes she discovered as she spent five years traversing the Mediterranean region, from Spain in the west toIsrael, Lebanon, and Syria in the east, with stops in France, Italy, Turkey, and Greece.

Here are bountiful breads (Mirsini's Spiced Barley Bread); mouthwatering pastries (Spicy Beef, Olives, and Capers in Semolina Pastry Turnovers); nourishing comfort soups (Garlic Soup with Leafy Greens); crisp salads of mixed greens, cooked green salads, and savory grain salads (Samira's Tabbouleh with Parsley, Bulgur, Cinnamon, and Cumin); unusual desserts (Tunisian Homemade Couscous with Golden Raisins); and accompanying sauces, condiments, and seasonings. Though Mediterranean Grains and Greens is not a vegetarian cookbook, meat, fish, and poultry, when they appear, are used primarily as condiments and flavor enhancers rather than the main focus of a meal.

Throughout, Wolfert explains the historical and cultural significance of her dishes, sharing traditional preparation techniques as well as her adaptations for the American home kitchen. Ever conscious of the availability of ingredients in this country, she recommends readily available alternatives found in grocery stores and farmer's markets. Whether foraging for wild "apron greens" in the Turkish countryside, "listening" to risotto in Venice to tell if it's ready to eat, making homemade rustic pasta on the island of Crete, baking Sardinian flatbread the old-fashioned way, scrambling eggs with kofte along the Euphrates, or preparing the unusual "black paellas" of Valencia, Paula Wolfert shares her adventures in the engaging first-person stories that accompany each recipe. This comprehensive collection invites Paula Wolfert's loyal fans and followers to rediscover the joys of Mediterranean living, cooking, and eating right along with her. Like her earlier works, the enticing, wide-ranging Mediterranean Grains and Greens is destined to become a kitchen classic, a book that every serious cook, armchair traveler, and lover of good food will want to own.

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Review:

Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean Grains and Greens shares her adventures as a cultural explorer. Her discoveries show the probing of a culinary scholar and the passion of a true amateur. The result is a rich tapestry of information, images, and alluring recipes. Even if you don't cook, you will be entranced as this culinary Scheherazade spins her tales of a thousand-and-one discoveries and delights, which, in this case, are all real.

Typically, Wolfert introduces her recipe for Wheatberries, Lentils, and Rice with Fresh Herbs by regaling you with information about many other pulse-and-grain dishes from Spain to the Middle East that you have probably never heard of. She then enchants you with the story of how a Cretan chef shared this particular recipe, and explains that on Crete, there are three names for this type of soup: one is rooted in ancient times, one is linked to a local festival, and the third uses a play on words.

Few recipes in this, Wolfert's fifth cookbook on the Mediterranean region, are familiar. Her goal is to open our eyes to ingredients like green wheat, farro, mallow, and Tuscan kale. Some of the work records recipes for earthy, traditional dishes that are fast disappearing from the table as women in Mediterranean countries no longer have the time to make them, and as prosperity pulls people away from this "cooking of the poor." This book should also inspire wider demand for wild greens such as tart purslane, spinach-like lamb's quarters, grains like farro, and other unfamiliar Mediterranean ingredients. Wolfert also suggests substitutes, since many of the greens are interchangeable with chard, arugula, watercress, or spinach.

For simple dishes, try Escarole Stuffed with Capers, Golden Raisins, and Pine Nuts; Egyptian koshery, a blend of rice, lentils, pasta, and browned onions; and Winter Squash Pilaf with Bulgur. Bread bakers will be intrigued by recipes that use barley, semolina, and chickpeas. --Dana Jacobi

About the Author:

Paula Wolfert is an expert on Mediterranean food and the author of nine cookbooks, including The Food of Morocco, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, and The Cooking of Southwest France. Wolfert has won the James Beard Award, the Julia Child Award, the M. F. K. Fisher Award, and the Tastemaker Award, and was a finalist for the André Simon Award. A regular columnist for Food & Wine, Wolfert lives in Sonoma, California.

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