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Mediterranean Grains and Greens: A Book of Savory, Sun-Drenched Recipes Hardcover – August 26, 1998

4.1 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

From Publishers Weekly

In this return to the well of Mediterranean cooking, Wolfert (Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean; Mediterranean Cooking) takes an agreeable, sensible approach. Rather than repeating early recipes, she directs readers to the books in which they appear, and instead of trying to adapt recipes for dishes that would be patently impossible to re-create here, she simply describes such delicacies as Cretan "Scarf" Pies, filled with an elaborate collection of wild greens, in appealing sidebars. Nevertheless, there are plenty of challenges and specialties, e.g., Honeycomb Tripe Stew with Celery, Parsley, and Sardo Cheese and Homemade Cretan Rustic Pasta with goat's milk and skinned wheat. Young Mustard Greens with Pomegranate Molasses is a simple dish?for readers who can get their hands on pomegranate molasses. Wolfert can always be counted on to deliver some real discoveries: The Monk's Pizza with Pan-Seared Cabbage, made with a yeastless dough; Black Sea-Style Chard Bundles Filled with Veal, Toasted Corn Kernels, and Fresh Mint; and Bran-Crusted Barbecued Whole Fish with Chard Stem Tahini Sauce. Wolfert's expertise lies in linking the various Mediterranean cuisines, as in the highly informative mini-essays on rough-hewn pastas such as fregula, couscous, miftool and mhamma, and on Spanish rice dishes that accompany recipes like Tunisian Fish Couscous with Pumpkin and Leafy Greens and Black Rice with Mussels and Shrimp.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (August 26, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060172517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060172510
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Marold HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
One of my greatest pleasures is to read a book by an author whose reputation has gained my respect even in advance of my having read any of their works. This was certainly the case when I started this book by Paula Wolfert of whom I have been reading for several years. With Elizabeth David and Claudia Roden, she is one of the three great distaff writers of Mediterranean cuisine. This is just appropriate because, as Ms. Wolfert says early in the book, the cuisine of the Mediterranean is the cuisine of women. Even so macho seeming an authority as Mario Batali confirms that most of his recipes he steals from Italian mothers and grandmothers.
This book is a pure delight for foodies to read. The depth of personal research and understanding of the material is palpable. At the same time, Ms. Wolfert exercizes one of the most valuable traits of the knowledge business in that she liberally shares with us the sources of understanding. I have no knowledge of her middle eastern sources, but names like Harold McGee, Shirly Corriher, and Nancy Silverton grace the pages with their contributions to Paula's treatise.
As the subtitle `A Book of Savory, Sun-Drenched Recipes' indicates, this is primarily just that, a book of recipes where the primary ingredient is either a grain or a green or both from a Mediterranean cuisine. But, Paula spends a considerable amount of room on introducing her subjects with valuable information, all of which is helpful and some of which is surprising. Three of my favorite discussions are:
1. Catalogue of greens by taste and by the best way to prepare them. Even books dedicated to the topic of vegetables do not give as good a precis on how to approach leafy green foods as a class.
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By A Customer on November 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I've always loved Wolfert's cookbooks, and this is among her very best. Terrific recipes, impeccable fieldwork, great text, everything one has come to expect from this fine culinary expert. I've cooked four reicpes so far, and expect to cook my way through it over the coming months. Highly recommended!
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Format: Hardcover
I've made about a dozen of the recipes so far and all were delicious. I've even substituted tofu and "fake meat" in some of the recipes and they still were very tasty. I like the unexpected combinations of ingredients and unusual treatments -- who would have guessed that pureed greens could be used as a sauce? I only wish I had access to some of the native greens that Paula describes, which would truly make the dishes ambrosial, but her suggestions for substitutes work just as well. It makes me eager to travel to these countries just to try "the real deal." This is the book to get if you have vegetable haters in the house!
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Format: Hardcover
I've never had a Paula Wolfert cookbook before. I used this at someone's home last year and bought it immediately. The grilled asparagus is so good I can't believe it hasn't been published before! The recipes are simple and delicious, as is mediterranean cuisine. If you think you don't have access to some of the more exotic grains and greens, it might be worth trying to find them, just to use this book. She really knows a lot about so many ingredients! Very well done.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had high expectations for this book when I had a look at it on Amazon. What appealed to me especially was that it was a book about greens and grains. I wasn't disappointed. It is a very romantic book, telling tales of the author, Paul Wolfert's experiences with cooks in traditional regions. Whilst these anecdotes are interesting, and lend a traditional flavour to the book, I would have appreciated more recipes. In one part of the book she spoke of how many hundreds of recipes she'd collected in her travels, but they're not all in the book - rats!

This book is a delight... surprises such as a recipe for real, authentic Cous Cous, made the old-fashioned way! The first recipe I tried, Garlic Soup with Leafy Greens from Spain, was absolutely DELICIOUS, and has become a family favourite (even my kids eat it!!!) I have the need to have a number of recipes on hand that aren't based on animal or dairy products, and I have found that very many of her recipes, if they include these ingredients, look as if they could easily be adapted not to include them. Being someone who really loves vegetables, this is a great book. This isn't one of the new types of books from chefs with 'good ideas', they are recipes which have stood the test of time, and proven themselves delectable.

There are also good looking recipes for many different types of grains. She has recipes such as: 'Rusk Salad with Tomatoes, Capers, Olives and Lemon' from Greece (and all the tourists get is the standard Greek salad!); Mirsini's Spiced Barley Bread; Field Greens, Rice and Pumpkin Torta (Italy); Black Sea Soup with Cornmeal, Leafy Greens, and Mushrooms (Turkey); Medley of Wheat Berries, Lentils and Rice with Fresh Herbs (Greece); Summer Sorrel and Chervil Soup (France).... Ok, I'm getting hungry...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Paula Wolfert is not known for her quick and easy recipes - but she IS known for authenitc, well tested regional Mediterranean recipes. I belong to a CSA, and often find myself with 2 pounds of dandelion greens or 5 pounds of turnips, etc. When I'm at a loss for what to do with those extra greens, this is THE book I turn to. Most of the recipes here can be on the table in under two hours, which is quick for this type of cooking, and nothing I've ever made from this book has been bad. If you are looking for a great book for using grains and greens which are a bit uncommon in the typical American household, and are willing to spend a little extra time in the kitchen to prepare exceptional meals, this is very much worth having in your cookbook library.
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