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The Mediterranean Table: Simple Recipes for Healthy Living on the Mediterranean Diet Paperback – August 10, 2015
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
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First off, my cooking skills are intermediate. I'm much better than a beginner, but I'm a long way from ever being an expert. I rely on good cookbooks to give me good instructions because my skills and knowledge are still developing.
Bottom line up front. I will be making a lot of recipes from this book. Everything so far has been delicious. It's a good cookbook, but it has some flaws. I'm on my 4th recipe, and I've already encountered many issues with the instructions and organisation of the book. First of all... the index is just plain bad. It's superficial and expects you to know the first letter of any recipe that you want. For example... say you want to make mint pesto chicken.... The pesto recipe is in a different part of the book. After I prepared that pesto... I wasn't 100% sure of the name of the chicken recipe that required it, so I looked up "chicken" in the index. Nothing there that matched my recipe. Was this the wrong book? I didn't think so. I checked the table of contents, and there under poultry was "Mint Pesto Chicken" It's a chicken recipe, but the dang index doesn't list it. Well// it does, but it's under "Mint" not "Chicken." Under Chicken, it doesn't even say that there are other chicken recipes. It doesn't say "see also mint pesto chicken"
Bottom line - this index is painfully literal and limited to the exact name of the recipe only. That's one annoying complaint.
The big complaint is this: Instructions. This is why I dropped my rating to three starts.
As an intermediate cook, I've prepared a lot of potatoes. So when I went to prepare the Spanish tortilla with potatoes, red onion, and egg, I was happy to slice 2lbs of potatoes cut into 1/4" slices. The recipe then directs you to cook them in a 1/2 cup of olive oil in a medium skillet for 20 minutes or until soft. Do I cover them? guess not. Says I should use a large skillet because that's a lot of potatoes. What size is large? Doesn't say. I used my "large" 10' all-clad. You know what? That's not adequate. That many potatoes overwhelms the skillet. They don't cook evenly. Should I have done them in batches? doesn't say to. Plus, that not enough oil to do batch cooking. Bottom line - that much time + that much oil in that sized skillet is simply not sufficient. You know what you need to do? Use a bigger skillet and cover it. That's common sense if you know how to cook potatoes. Am I wrong? maybe, but departing from the instructions produced a wonderful tortilla. I know enough about cooking to know that those instructions don't work w/o more time and skill. So I have had to add cooking notes to ever recipe that I've made so far.
That Mint Pesto Chicken I mentioned? The pesto is awesome! I never would have thought mint and walnuts would work so well for pesto). The problem is the chicken. It needs to be cut up or flattened and maybe you should *not* use breasts. It will cook with the instructions given, but don't expect it to absorb all that pesto flavor. You get dry flavorless chicken with an amazing coating. A standard breast is simply too thick. Cutting it up or pounding it to a uniform thickness improves cooking time and flavor penetration. Does it suggest that? Nope. So again... Another great recipe with inadequate instructions and I've made more notes in the book.
I made fig/almond/yogurt phyllo tarts this AM. They tasted amazing, but it tells you to use two cookie sheets. Why? to make six servings. What size sheet? it doesn't say. Just one half-sheet pan is all that you actually need. Again... making more notes in the book. Also.. you have to thaw the dough first. Probably a "duh" sort of comment, but in later phyllo recipes, it makes a specific mention to thaw it. Not this one.
By the time I've made everything, I'll probably have added preparation notes to every single recipe.
Does that make this a bad cookbook? No. There are some awesome recipes in here. I've loved everything I've made so far. If you use this cookbook, you're going to make good and healthy food. Recipes might take longer than you think and instructions might be inadequate, but it'll still be good.
I'd give this five stars if the instructions and the index were better. I recommend that you write down the name of all the recipies you want to make - because if you don't the first word of the name, you've going to have hard time finding again.
So.. complaint aside, I think that this will become one of my favorite cookbooks. I'm just not sure that I'd recommend it for beginners. You really need to know when the cooking and prep instructions are inadequate or even wrong, but the food.. it's just so good you forget the annoyance.
I fell in love with this cookbook even after only a few recipes. I am a big fan of how under each recipe name, there is a small description on where the dish originated and alternatives that you can do.
There is also the ever useful conversions in the back, and also a list of vegetables and fruits that are best to buy organic.