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Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More Hardcover – April 26, 2011

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Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More + Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way + Whole Grains for a New Generation: Light Dishes, Hearty Meals, Sweet Treats, and Sundry Snacks for the Everyday Cook
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Best Books of 2014
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2014's Best Books of the Year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press; First Edition edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580083544
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580083546
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.9 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #197,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Winner, Julia Child Award, and Health and Special Diet Award, IACP 2012
Washington Post Top 10 Cookbook of 2011
New York Times Notable Cookbook of 2011
New York Times 2011 Best Summer Cookbook
Cooking Light, Best 100 Cookbooks of the Past 25 Years
Gourmand Awards, 2011 Winner, USA Mediterranean Category

“It’s a wonderful book!”
—Ellie Krieger, Food Network, 2011
“Maria has an infectious passion that is contagious beyond measure.”
—Suvir Saran, Top Chef Masters contestant, Season 3, 6/9/11

““Whole grains have cast a spell on me are the first words in this excellent cookbook from Speck. Read on and they will cast a spell on you, and, like me, you’ll look forward to her next book.
—Today’s Diet & Nutrition Magazine, Editor's Picks, 2011

“Grain guru Maria Speck's new cookbook Ancient Grains for Modern Meals has shown me the proverbial light. . . . Pick up a copy of the book, and you'll find ideas for breakfasts, dinners, desserts, and breads from Speck's rich heritage alongside beautifully vibrant photography of select dishes. The breadth and variety present in the collection also reinforce the idea that with the recipes come entire culinary traditions condensed, refined, and recorded for your own gastronomical pleasure.”
—The Epi-Log,, 8/4/11

“A sensuous love letter to the delicious possibilities of whole grains. . . . Maria brings a curiosity and a puckish sense of exuberance to this glamorous exploration of whole grains.”
—, 6/29/11

“Her new cookbook … is a beautiful collection of recipes inspired by her upbringing, and by the Mediterranean whole grain foods she has enjoyed throughout her life. …Hello, Dark Chocolate Muesli. Hi, Saffron Waffles with Orange Cream. Where've you been my whole life?”
—Cheryl Sternman-Rule, 5 Second Rule, 6/27/11

“...there are so many gluten-free grain recipes… (amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, and wild rice) that I didn’t need to feel deprived. Plus, I figured I could easily substitute any of the gluten containing recipes with gluten-free ones as well.”
—EA Stewart, The Spicy RD, 6/7/11

“Maria Speck has given us a great gift; …Going from "I know I should eat more of these" to "That looks great - more, please?" is no small feat with something like grains.” 
—Jacqueline Church, Leather District Gourmet, 6/6/11 

“So if you're looking to incorporate more whole grains into your diet (and feel and look better too), then make room on your bookshelf for Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.”
—Susan Russo, Food Blogga, 5/25/11

“...I had a hard time deciding which [recipes] to try. I mean, with names like Orange-Scented Scones with Dark Chocolate, Saffron Waffles with Orange Cream, and Pine Nut Bread with Fennel and Sun- Dried Tomatoes, what’s not to love! …And, don’t even get me started on the desserts. My mouth has been watering for the Greek Walnut-Barley Cake or the Dark Chocolate Cake with Amaretto. Yum!”
—Cathy Warner, Bread Experience,  5/22/11

“Once in a while a cookbook will come across that will teach you something new. Something, you haven't seen anywhere else and Ancient Grains for Modern Meals does it without much preaching...” 
—Shulie Madnick, Food Wanderings, 5/13/11

“This is a wonderfully written book that would make great reading, great eating and also make the perfect gift for someone interested in trying recipes that take us back to our roots.” 
—Pastry chef Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet, 5/12/11

“It's full of wholesome and delicious recipes using whole grains and quick-cooking grains with fresh Mediterranean flavors. It will help you experiment with ingredients such as spelt, quinoa, farro and barley as well as polenta, buckwheat and millet.”
—Jennifer Bartoli, Chocolate Shavings, 5/9/11

“If you've turned up your nose at the likes of barley, wheat berries or the unappetizingly-named spelt because of their reputation for being the stuff of hippies or health-nuts, you've been missing out on an entire category of good eating. …Greek-born food journalist Maria Speck…shines a light on these misunderstood ingredients…”
—The Wall Street Journal, Bits & Bites, 5/7/11

“Her recipes will surely broaden your horizons as much as they tempt your taste buds.” 
—Amy Sherman, Cooking with Amy, 5/5/11

“Who wouldn’t want to start the day with Walnut Spice Breakfast Cake? That passion comes through in every recipe and tip. I suspect my now-pristine copy of Ancient Grains will soon be dog-eared and spattered with kitchen stains – sure signs of a well-loved cookbook.”
—Alison Ashton, Nourish Network, 5/5/11

“[Maria] recalls her Greek grandmother hanging phyllo dough to dry on the back of the living room furniture. Her culinary style reflects a Greek enthusiasm for fresh herbs and a German precision…”
—Aaron Kagan, The Boston Globe, 5/4/11

“[Maria] considers herself "lucky" for never having been introduced to whole grains as a health food via food pyramids, celebrities and newspaper Health sections. She learned to love them simply as part of a really good home cooked meal growing up in Greece and Germany. Lucky indeed.”
—Jen Garbee, LA Weekly's Squid Ink blog, 5/3/11

“This is a cookbook food lovers will swoon over. …This book has my over the top, total recommendation… ..if all the recipes are as deliriously good as this one was, then I'm going to work through each recipe in this wonderful new cookbook!
—Hillary Davis, The Best Cookbooks List, 4/23/11

“The book is beautifully written, and a real pleasure to spend time with. Speck manages to soft-sell cooking with grains in a way that has me wanting to completely transform my diet. She should consider starting a cult, maybe she already has—the Cult of Whole Grains. Sign me up.”
—Tim Mazurek, Lottie + Doof, 4/21/11

“In this inspirational book, author and cook Maria Speck draws from her Greek mother’s cooking and the foods of her European upbringing to offer a sumptuous and alluring selection of recipes that would appeal to any cook. 
—Fresh Picks by Nina Simonds, The Daily Beast, 4/20/11

“We are, happily, in the midst of a whole grain renaissance. But we also know that people who are still awakening to whole grains need great recipes, derived from tradition yet re-imagined for the contemporary palate. Thanks to Maria Speck we now have such a book.
—PETER REINHART, author of Whole Grain Breads and Artisan Breads Every Day
“Maria Speck has brought her enormously talented culinary skill and multicultural background to these raw ingredients, transforming them into appealing and do-able recipes that will entice you to the kitchen.  If you want to include more whole grains in your diet, or you’re not familiar with farro, barley, quinoa, and the rest—let alone how to cook them—this is the perfect book.
—CLIFFORD A. WRIGHT, author of the James Beard Cookbook of the Year A Mediterranean Feast
"Maria Speck really knows her whole grains! She does a terrific job of introducing the reader to this fascinating food group, providing excellent recipes (many Mediterranean-inspired) as well as personal stories drawn from her upbringing that will reward the home cook.
—PAULA WOLFERT, author of Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, Mediterranean Grains and Greens, and The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen
“Maria’s beautiful book made me hungry at first read. It will not only inspire you to stock your kitchen with a varied assortment of whole grains to simmer, steam, boil, and soak, but will give you an entirely new appreciation of their long and varied history and their infinitely delicious flavors and textures. I want to cook everything Maria writes about.
—LUISA WEISS, creator of The Wednesday Chef

About the Author

MARIA SPECK grew up in Greece and Germany before moving to the United States as a young adult. She is a writer and journalist, and has contributed to Gourmet, Saveur, and Gastronomica, as well as Marie Claire and Elle. Her popular cooking classes in Cambridge, Massachusetts, focus on the flavors and cooking styles of the Mediterranean and on creating innovative and delicious meals with whole grains.

More About the Author

Maria Speck is the award-winning author of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (Ten Speed Press), her first cookbook. It received the coveted Julia Child Award and the Health and Special Diet Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), as well as a Gourmand Award. The cookbook contains 100 Mediterranean-inspired whole grain recipes--from amaranth to wheat berries.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post selected Ancient Grains as one of the top cookbooks of 2011, and Cooking Light magazine named it one of 100 best cookbooks of the past 25 years. Raised in Greece and Germany, Maria has a lifelong passion for whole grains. She is a veteran journalist and food writer, and has contributed to Gourmet, Saveur, and Gastronomica.

Customer Reviews

Can't wait to try more recipes from this book.
Maria Speck's cookbook on Ancient Grains is much more than a cookbook -- she provides history and personal stories that make it a fun book to read.
It is a beautiful book with very nice and easy recipes.
The Gardener

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Karin M. Anderson on June 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At the first glance, Maria Speck's book not only pleases by its appetizing photos, but, also, by its clear, user friendly design. A mixture of biographical anecdotes, helpful comments and tempting recipes - don't worry, the recipes are the main part - the book is very well written, funny, not only instructive, but also entertaining.
Reading it, I had several "Aha" moments - the author (who grew up in Germany and Greece) doesn't shy away from rich ingredients like butter, bacon, or a shot of booze, but believes that "food has to be mouthwatering" and "eating is about pleasure first, and dieting last". And her recipes really live up to that credo!
I served the "Brie Cakes with Sun-Dried Tomatoes" to my rather skeptical husband who, after the first forkful, turned into an ardent "believer". The oat based burgers, seasoned with roasted pine nuts, rosemary and sage, were absolutely amazing! Being an avid baker, I also tried the "Greek Walnut-Barley Cake", Lemon-Rosemary Scones" and "Orange Scented Scones with Dark Chocolate" - all were delicious.
The instructions are very clear and easy to follow, even for iffier steps (like handling very sticky dough), and, for people like me, who don't like it too sweet, there is no necessity to cut down on sugar or honey - the seasoning is just right.
This is really a cookbook that takes the scary (and Puritan!) out of whole grain cooking.
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69 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Peace, Love, Vegan on June 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I am absolutely in love with cookbooks. As a general rule my grandma once told me, it's worth buying a cookbook if you get 2 or 3 unique new recipes you can go to regularly. Now, I usually don't buy cookbooks that aren't vegan specific but I could not pass this one up. The salads section alone has been worth the money and are already vegan (aside from some added cheese or butter which is easy to substitute or omit).

I've made the salad on the cover, which is delicious with a garlic marinated tofu slice, and we've made this recipe twice in 2 weeks. The recipe that really sold the book for me was the Bittersweet Koliva that you can see in the Amazon "Look Inside"feature. I made this for my Greek friend from Thessaloniki (where the author is from) and she LOVED it! It's a very unique sweet grain dish that I never would have thought of on my own. And a little tip, I substituted the raisins and dragees for ribbons of toasted coconut. So delicious!

I highly recommend this book so anyone and everyone! It has creative recipes that I never could have imagines and they are so simple and wholesome. Though I have only tried a few of these ancients grains, they have become the new staples in my diet (plain brown rice is out! haha). What's also great is that it is a healthy but delicious book that's great for vegetarians, carnists, and vegans alike!

If you're on the fence about getting this book, try some of the recipes you can see in the "Look Inside" feature (this is a good tip for any cookbook you might want on Amazon) and see if yourself how worthwhile it would be to have. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By S. Nasser on May 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I've enjoyed everything I've tried from this book so far. There are a lot of interesting combinations of Mediterranean flavors to try. The recipes strike a nice balance between being fully detailed, so that you can follow them exactly if you wish, and being adaptable, so that you can take the inspiration provided and adapt it to your tastes and supplies.

This is a very good-looking book, with nice page layout and lovely photographs.

I love that the recipes, including the baked goods, all use 100% whole grains--no hidden white flour.
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69 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Milic on August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
i was really looking forward to finding lots of recipes using whole grains, or "berries", as the author calls them, but i found that many of the recipes only use whole grain flour, and not the whole grain. there is only 1 recipe for amaranth and buckwheat, and 3 for quinoa, for example. the recipes look good, but it's not what i was expecting.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Myrna S. Greenfield on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I can't even pretend to be objective about Maria Speck's new cookbook, "Ancient Grains for Modern Meals" because a) Maria's a long-time friend; b) she let me test a couple of the recipes; c) the recipes are creative, delicious, and fun to cook; d) the photos are gorgeous; e) it's a great read, because it's full of stories about Maria's Greek and German family; and f) the information about cooking with whole grains is really useful, whether you know your spelt from your farro or you couldn't tell the difference between a grain of brown rice and a couscou (what the heck do you call a single grain of couscous, anyway?)

Maria embraces the use of butter, cream and bacon; and insists that "health is the last thing on my mind when I eat." Fortunately, even though I'm a pescovegetarian and try to eat as healthily as possible, I can still enjoy this cookbook, because many of the recipes includes suggestions for how to lighten them up or make them vegetarian.

Whether you're a hedonist or a health nut, this book will make you want to try every recipe, because Maria swoons over the taste and texture of each whole grain like it's a treasured friend. To be candid, I think she's a bit nutty, because, face it, certain grains are rather bland. For example, what's the big whoop about polenta? Even when it's fried with a nice crust, it still tastes like breakfast cereal. Fortunately, her recipes call for foods with strong Mediterranean flavors--such as feta cheese, smoked trout, and olives--that could make almost any grain taste good.

Millet is another one of those grains that I'm not particularly crazy about, but its dry, almost nutty flavor is a perfect foil to soak up the salty tomato sauce in one of my favorite recipes in the book, "Greek Millet Saganaki with Shrimp and Ouzo.
Read more ›
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