Claudia Roden has updated and expanded her popular 1968 cookbook for a more savvy and knowledgeable audience. While still filled with old favorites, the third edition acknowledges food processors and other handy kitchen tools, as well as this generation's preference for lower-fat recipes. Not that every recipe is changed; many are not, but Roden does attempt not to rely too much on butter and oils.
Begin your meal with mezze, derived from the Arabic t'mazza, meaning "to savor in little bites." Try Cevisli Biber (Roasted Pepper and Walnut Paste) spread on warm pita bread. Serve with Salata Horiatiki (Greek Country Salad) and then move on to a main dish of Roast Fish with Lemon and Honeyed Onions or Lamb Tagine with Artichokes and Fava Beans. The cookbook wouldn't be complete without sections on rice, couscous, and bulgur--try Addis Polow (Rice with Lentils and Dates) or Kesksou Bidaoui bel Khodra (Beber Couscous with Seven Vegetables). Finish with a traditional dessert like Orass bi Loz (Almond Balls).
Mixed in with the recipes are Roden's personal experiences as a cook and recipe archivist, and Middle Eastern tales that illustrate the history of a particular recipe or food group. "It was once believed olive oil could cure any illness except the one by which a person was fated to die," Roden writes. "People still believe in its beneficial qualities and sometimes drink it neat when they feel anemic of tired." She also includes a detailed introduction to the terrain, history, politics, and society of the Middle East so her readers can more fully understand why the cuisine has evolved the way it has. "Cooking in the Middle East is deeply traditional and nonintellectual," she says, "an inherited art." It's our good fortune to inherit such a rich tradition. --Dana Van Nest
From Publishers Weekly
When Roden published The Book of Middle Eastern Food in 1972, the cuisines of Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Egypt and their neighbors were mysteries in this country. Today, their fresh flavors are better known, and much loved, and Roden has expanded and updated her classic to meet modern needs. The new version includes more than 800 recipes, as well as folk tales, tips, anecdotes and just about all the information anyone needs to reproduce foods from that part of the world. Miraculously, Roden manages to be this thorough while never sacrificing her personal toneDthis is a book that is both encyclopedic and intimate. Much of Middle Eastern food is light tasting and vegetable-based, and the recipes reflect these qualities without neglecting more complex and unusual preparations. A chapter on appetizers and salads includes a Moroccan Lettuce and Orange Salad, Tabbouleh, Lemony Chicken Jelly and even a Brain Salad. While Roden is no stickler for starting from scratch, she always provides plenty of options for those who wish to do so. In a section on yogurtDa key ingredient in many recipes, such as Tagliatelle with Yogurt and Fried Onions, and Chickpeas with Yogurt and Soaked BreadDshe gives both guidelines for buying yogurt and instructions for making your own. A sub-section on Persian sauces for rice is outstanding, as is another on stuffed eggplants. Desserts include Egyptian "Bread-and-Butter" Pudding and Arab Pancakes with various filings. Roden won a James Beard award for The Book of Jewish Food in 1997. She will certainly be in the running once more with this impressive work. 24 pages of color photos. (Oct.)
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