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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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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.

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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 (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Award-winning cookbook author Maria Speck is coming out with a new book this April, SIMPLY ANCIENT GRAINS -- Fresh and flavorful whole grain recipes for living well.

Maria's first cookbook, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals (both by Ten Speed Press), won multiple awards, among them 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. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post named Ancient Grains a top cookbook, and Cooking Light magazine included it as one of 100 best cookbooks of the past 25 years.

Maria will be featured in the upcoming documentary, "The Grain Divide", starring Dan Barber, Chad Robertson, and Michael Pollan among others. She has been interviewed on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Jamie Oliver's website, The Kojo Nnamdi Show, The Leonard Lopate Show (WNYC), Wisconsin Public Radio, and the Boston Globe. Her hometown of Cambridge, MA has recognized her with an honorable mention as a Food Hero.

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. For more visit

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 easy to follow directions and healthy recipes.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 95 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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73 of 75 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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71 of 78 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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By anne on April 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The recipes in this book are to die for. At least all of the ones I have tried. But the big thing is the more I cook with all of these grains the better my husbands blood sugar gets. So this is really a winner of a book. The she brings these grains together in such wonderful combinations. I think everyone who wants to starting eating whole grains should buy this book. It is eating the whole grains that affects the blood sugar. The bread (are great) but do not shift the blood sugar as much. I just cannot say enough about this book.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By JK VINE VOICE on July 31, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really love cookbooks that are packed with recipes that take simple things already in the house and guide you to make something fabulous and this cookbook totally delivers! If you are looking to increase the amount of fiber and vegetables to your diet, you will find this cookbook jammed with awesome recipes to make it happen. I also like cookbooks that allow me to substitute things (like a different type of cheese than what the recipe calls for) without ruining the dish. I did a LOT of substituting and experimenting after cooking most of the recipes as they are listed, and was able to come up with some great variations. The recipes definitely have a Mediterranean look and feel which is obvious when you consider history, but it's not a diet cookbook, it's a cookbook that takes staples as old as man and reworks them into delicious recipes for today's family. And yes, my kids actually liked everything I made.

Here's what I like:
-recipes don't call for odd ingredients that you'll never use again and for those that do, there is a listing of sources in the back of the book (I substituted for some of these, and everything came together just fine)
-easy to follow directions and pretty fool-proof
-really, really yummy!
-plenty of variety for all meals
-excellent intro to whole grains with a brief history and uses

Some make not like:
-recipes don't use a lot of meat (easy to add on your own)
-recipes not organized by grain type

Also, kudos to Ms. Speck for creating a wonderful cookbook with plenty of good information (not just recipes) that's not preachy about healthy eating. As she says, she cooks what she likes, and yes, she loves baguettes with plenty of butter.
Read more ›
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Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More
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