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The Essential Mediterranean: How Regional Cooks Transform Key Ingredients into the World's Favorite Cuisines Hardcover – March 18, 2003


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The Essential Mediterranean: How Regional Cooks Transform Key Ingredients into the World's Favorite Cuisines + The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health + The Mediterranean Prescription: Meal Plans and Recipes to Help You Stay Slim and Healthy for the Rest of Your Life
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Cookbooks; 1 edition (March 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060196513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060196516
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The table of contents of The Essential Mediterranean is the first hint that author Nancy Harmon Jenkins is about to reveal to the reader a Mediterranean most never see or know. "Salt." That's the first chapter, followed by "Olives and Olive Oil," "Wheat," "Pasta and Couscous," "Wine," "The Oldest Legumes," "Peppers and Tomatoes," "The Family Pig," "The Sea," and "From the Pasture." This is a reader's book. Jenkins writes her way into the heart of the region, its history, its food, its people with a level of prose and insight rarely encountered in food writing. But she's also a wonderful cook. So these chapters are followed by two appendices that explain basic technique and food sources, because The Essential Mediterranean is also a cook's book.

"Food," Jenkins writes, "is present in Mediterranean cultures in a way it's not in our own ... the way it's grown and harvested, the way it's prepared, what's in season and out...." The Essential Mediterranean brings that same sensibility, or at least its potential, into the North American kitchen and home. These are fabulous flavors, she reminds the reader, simple foods, with health benefits suited to life in a spa. And, they are easy to include in our daily fare. It's a matter of understanding the key ingredients, as though they are building blocks. "A recipe," Jenkins notes, "is a formula.... Cooking, on the other hand, is a strategy...." This is a book to read, and then to taste, with dozens of classic, delicious recipes. By the time you finish The Essential Mediterranean, you will not only be a better Mediterranean cook, you will know why. --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

Books on Mediterranean food are common, but this one is uncommonly good. Jenkins's writing experience stands her in good stead in this innovative exploration of this sunny region. Chapters are organized by major ingredient, and each opens with a thoughtful essay on the item that blends personal experience and well-researched information. The first chapter, on salt, explains the salinity of the Mediterranean and recounts a tour of a saltworks in Sicily with its owner, a gentleman over 80 years old who credits the magnesium in the salt for his good health. While almost every recipe in the world calls for salt, Jenkins does a good job featuring those in which salt or salt-preserved ingredients are key: Salt-Baked Fish and Moroccan Chicken with Black Olives and Salted Lemons. Another chapter on olives and olive oil features Turkish Green Beans and Olive Oil and a Tunisian Orange-Olive Oil Tea Cake that calls for pulverized whole oranges, skin and all. A chapter on wheat contains a recipe for Classic Mediterranean-Style Bread Made with a Sponge that cleverly transforms the dough into everything from focaccia to a North African bread with fennel and nigella seeds. Jenkins enables those of us not lucky enough to reside along the Mediterranean with the tools for an authentic re-creation; e.g., Focaccia di Recco from Liguria calls for a combination of taleggio, goats' milk cheese and sour cream to reproduce the flavor of a local cheese not available outside the area. She also plucks deserving dishes such as Green Tomato Jam Pie and Balkan Oven-Baked Meat and Vegetable Stew from obscurity, proving that no matter how many books have been written about the Mediterranean, a talented cook can still find more recipes to harvest.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on March 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Nancy Harmon Jenkins clearly belongs to the elite cadre of culinary writers who interpret Mediterranean cuisine for us. Foremost among these are Elizabeth David, Claudia Roden, Paula Wolfert, and Clifford Wright. And that doesn't include the many writers specializing in particular countries, such as Penelope Casas on Spain, Diane Kochilas on Greece, and Patricia Wells on France.
Each of these writers gives us a slightly different perspective on the same subject, so they rarely overlap in their general essays on the Mediterranean. Roden is the historian, Wolfert is the ethnologist, and Wright is the taxonomist. Jenkins' role seems to be the dietitian and synthesist, explaining what it is that makes Mediterranean cuisine distinctive and, in other works, what makes it as healthy as it appears in demographic studies of peoples and diets.
Of all the works I have read by these authors, this book is the most interesting to people interested in history and current events, but with only an average interest in cooking. The primary object of the book is to identify those foodstuffs that are central to the Mediterranean diet, and how they achieved that status. The main characters in this story are salt, olives, wheat and its products, wine and vinegar, legumes, peppers (chiles), tomatoes, pork, seafood, and milk (giving cheese and yogurt).
The first item, salt, may seem unexciting since every culture has used and valued salt. But, salt has played a larger role in Mediterranean history than in other cultures because the Mediterranean Sea happens to be a lot saltier than the broader `seven seas'. This means that it is a lot easier to harvest sea salt, which means that salt preserved foods become much more common. A perfect example of how simple things can make enormous differences.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By R. Gahan on July 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have a book on Moroccan cooking by Paula Wolfert and a book on Syrian cooking, and both are daunting to me because of the techniques and equipment required. I consider this book as a bridge into understanding how to cook Mediterranean food. It has the best tabouleh recipe of all time. I look forward to using this as a primer and a reference. From this book I will gain the familiarity with the food in order to cook it well.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Shaz on August 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
To call this book a "cookbook" is really an understatment- it's an indulgence in the ways of the Mediterranean lifestyle. The delicious recipes are an added bonus. Learn all about the best olive oil to buy, how it's processed, and read Jenkins' interview with an expert on the subject. This is also one of the most beautiful cookbooks I've owned. If you love Mediterranean food and want to know more about the tradtions and history behind it, this is the best book! Makes an impressive gift.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M.R. Donaldson on July 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am an Italian by birth and am very fussy when it comes to cookbooks. This is my hands down favorite. I have "lent" my copy to relatives twice and had to re-order. They love it so much that it becomes a gift. I buy it again because it is one that I use a lot. I don't even change most of the recipes which for me is totally unusual. I have all of the Jenkins cookbooks that I could find even ordering out of print ones through Amazon. So, this is, in my opinion, the best cookbook by the bestMediterranean chef writing.
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