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Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen: A Culinary Journey through Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan Hardcover – April 15, 2004
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"Sonia Uvezian's family had for generations operated a caravan from southern Anatolia to Beirut. In this handsomely produced and well-illustrated book, she covers every aspect of the cuisine of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, but draws particularly on her youth in Beirut, then a place of great sophistication and plenty, and the family's summer house and garden in the Bekaa Valley...Uvezian recalls hard-working summers in the Bekaa, with all the pickling and preserving to be done, but there are also lyrical descriptions of bicycling through vineyards and orchards and stopping to savor freshly caught and grilled trout at a local restaurant. A leisurely feel prevails throughout this evocative book, which puts the cuisine in the context of the culture, and at the same time gives simple, straightforward and practical recipes demonstrating the variety and richness of the ingredients." --Rosemary Butler-Cole, The Times Literary Supplement (London), March 16, 2001
"The author, originally from Lebanon, has already acquired an enviable reputation for good writing on food (for example The Cuisine of Armenia)...Drawing on her recollections of food in the Eastern Mediterranean, and digging deep into the extensive literature of travelers in the region, she has produced a book which I have found quite irresistible. There is a wealth of recipes, skillfully embedded in their historical contexts. The illustrations (many of the 19th century) are evocative and the quotations from a wide variety of sources constitute one of the best collections I have ever seen in a book about food...An exciting journey for which one could wish no better guide." --Alan Davidson, Petits Propos Culinaires, April, 2000
"Sonia Uvezian is one of the world's leading experts on Middle Eastern and Caucasian cuisines and the author of several works on the cookery of Armenia and the Caucasus. Recipes and Remembrances could very well be the seminal work on the cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean and fills a long-standing void of scholarly works on the subject...It is a title that should reside in the collection of every serious cook or culinary historian. The research and work that went into the production of this entertaining and informative cookbook is astounding. But the true prize of Recipes and Remembrances is the range and depth of the incredibly delicious food the hundreds of clearly written, easy to follow recipes will produce." --Mick Vann, the Austin Chronicle, November 26, 1999
"The incredible research that has gone into this book by well-known author Sonia Uvezian makes it as much a history book as a cookbook...A wondrous addition to any cook's library." --Ginger Johnston, The Portland Oregonian, December 11, 2001
"A full array of dishes known and unknown to Americans...From clotted cream to pomegranate sauce, tabbouleh, and baklava, the recipes are entwined with history, both ancient and modern, as well as cultural and geographical influences." --New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 5, 2000
"This highly original cookbook offers a complete spectrum of culinary delights. In addition to hundreds of superb recipes, it includes illuminating essays on a variety of topics ranging from hospitality and meals to ingredients and utensils." --The Midwest Book Review, November, 1999
"This is an important and valuable addition to the Middle Eastern cooking shelf, full of informative short essays on such topics as hospitality and pomegranate molasses as well as hundreds of recipes, some unusual, that readers have praised very highly...But it is the anecdotes, proverbs, quotations from old travel accounts and, above all, the author's commentary that account for the nostalgic charm that may be this book's greatest virtue." --Aramco World, March/April, 2000
"Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen...is an indispensable resource for the food of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. History plays a large part in the text, the scholarly research has left little out and the collection of recipes with extensive background notes makes it a thoroughly useful book." --Laurine Jacobs, cuisine.co.nz, 2003
"Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen by Sonia Uvezian is a first-class retrospective cookbook. This intelligently written book is one of the best examples I have seen of a cookbook living up to its full potential. It's a cookbook, yes, yet it's somehow more than a collection of past and present recipes. It is a reflection of a people who put hospitality above their own wants and desires...The author is Lebanese and knows the Eastern Mediterranean well. She thoroughly explains how the history, geography and cultural influences converged to shape the region's food and traditions. With the increasingly disturbing news from Syria, this cookbook is now more relevant than ever." Culinarialibris.com (UK), March 5, 2012
"A masterpiece! This first and last word on eastern Mediterranean cooking is sure to become a classic." --Kerri Katz, booksforcooks.com, Fall, 1999
"This handsomely produced and well-illustrated book...puts the cuisine in the context of the culture... Lyrical...evocative...practical." --Rosemary Butler-Cole, The Times Literary Supplement (London), March 16, 2001
From the Publisher
Located in the very heart of the eastern Mediterranean, the area comprising Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan has provided the world with what is considered by many to be Arab food at its best. In this landmark, one-of-a-kind volume Sonia Uvezian gives this time-honored cuisine the kind of presentation it truly deserves. Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen is a revelatory work rich in personal reminiscences, insightful quotations, anecdotes, and proverbs; valuable information on ingredients, utensils, daily meals, and traditions; and evocative period illustrations.
Sonia Uvezians many memories and associations establish a sense of place and emotional pull rarely encountered in Middle Eastern culinary literature. The "eastern Mediterranean kitchen" in the title is actually that of her familys summer home in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanons fertile agricultural and winemaking region, as well as the one in their Beirut apartment. It is where the Uvezians prepared the food they grew themselves or bought from nearby farms, orchards, and markets.
Written by one of the worlds foremost authorities on Middle Eastern and Caucasian cooking and over two decades in the making, this is a fascinating and highly original book imbued with a keen historical perspective and a deep respect for the regions cultural heritage. Few cookbook authors have approached their subjects with the thorough, painstaking research reflected in this work. A profound understanding of eastern Mediterranean food shines through in its hundreds of superb, clearly written recipes, which are often preceded by illuminating introductory remarks. From the definitive and much-needed section on pomegranates and pomegranate molasses through the fabulous chapters on desserts and beverages, this book provides indispensable reading for anyone interested in the cookery and culture of Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Like the authors groundbreaking classics, The Cuisine of Armenia and Cooking from the Caucasus, which were among the first to bring Middle Eastern and Caucasian cooking to America, it is long on such traditional dishes as tabbouleh and baklava but also includes innovations, among them Damascus-Style Cheese Dip with Toasted Sesame Seeds and Nigella and Grilled Quail with Sour Cherry Sauce.
Timeless and timely, Recipes and Remembrances from an Eastern Mediterranean Kitchen is a welcome blend of outstanding scholarship and entertaining reading. A genuine contribution to culinary literature that has achieved the status of a classic, it will be a treasured addition to the library of anyone interested in Middle Eastern cooking.
ABOUT THE RECIPES: The imaginative use of spices, herbs, and other flavorings, fresh vegetables and fruits, dried legumes, grains, and yogurt highlights all manner of dishes ranging from earthy to elegant, many of them not found elsewhere. You will find sensational dips (for example, Hummus with Mixed Spices, Toasted Nuts, and Mint; Muhammara with Tahini; Yogurt Cheese Dip with Red Pepper Paste; Feta and Yogurt Cheese Dip with Zaatar); colorful salads redolent of their sun-drenched origins (Tomato, Cucumber, and Green Pepper Salad with Walnut Dressing; Fattush; Orange, Lemon, and Onion Salad); soul-satisfying soups (Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard and Potatoes; Meat Soup with Pumpkin, Quince, Apricots, and Prunes); inspired seafood, poultry, and meat dishes (Baked Fish with Tomato Sauce Garnished with Sautéed Pine Nuts, Raisins, and Onions; Chicken, Green Pepper, and Tomato Kebabs; Musakhan; Duck with Quinces and Pomegranate Sauce; Ground Meat Kebabs with Sour Cherry Sauce; Grilled Stuffed Kibbeh); hearty and nourishing grain and pasta dishes (Chicken and Freek with Tomatoes; Lamb, Eggplant, and Saffron Rice Mold; Bulgur Pilaf with Dried Fruits and Nuts; Meat Dumplings in Yogurt); tempting vegetable and fruit dishes (Red Cabbage with Quince or Apple; Stuffed Chard Leaves; Dandelion Greens in Olive Oil; Meat-Stuffed Prunes with Oranges); vibrant sauces (Tahini Sauce with Toasted Nuts, Mixed Spices, and Herbs; Garlic Yogurt Sauce; Pomegranate Sauce with Garlic and Mint; Sour Plum Sauce with Ginger and Toasted Nuts); time-honored breads and savory pastries (Sesame Pita Bread, Zaatar Bread, Mountain Bread, Lahm bi Ajeen, Fatayer, Sambusak); unusual sandwiches and snacks made with mountain bread and pita (Flatbreads Stuffed with Spiced Ground Meat, Red Pepper Paste Pizza with Pomegranate); and more than thirty irresistible desserts.
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A very thorough treatise on one of the world's most complex sophisticated cuisines. Cuisines? Yes, it is an ancient crossroads and the author paints a detailed portrait of a disappearing world and the Muslim, Christian, Jewish community that once peacefully thrived within.
The very best thing about the book is the mix of scholarly history, personal observations, and culinary content. While the scholarly aspect is firmly grounded in copious footnotes and a five page bibliography, mostly of 19th and early 20th century travelogues and histories, it is neatly tucked away, below the level of our stream of consciousness read of the excellent prose. The personal observations have all the richness of an upper class native, whose family could afford a country house up in the mountains east of Beirut, and also afford all of the best ingredients, and were familiar with the full range of the cuisine of the Levant.
All this makes the book very different from the long-standing authority on cooking of the Levant, Paula Wolfert's celebrated `The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean'. Not only is the approach different, but Ms. Uvezian does not even cite Ms. Wolfert, even though Wolfert's well-known book was published five years before Ms. Uvezian's volume. Ms. Uvezian also does not cite the other great writer on eastern Mediterranean cooking, Claudia Roden, with her `The New Book of Middle Eastern Food'. I point this out not as a criticism, but as an indication that Ms. Uvezian has much of her own thing to say and does not need references to other modern culinary writers. I compared Ms. Uvezian's recipes with those from Mme. Wolfert, and was surprised to find little overlap there, even in the very well defined realm of breads. All this adds up to the conclusion that if you have an interest in Arab cooking of the Levant, you would do well to get both books (although if your interest is strictly culinary, Ms. Wolfert has a slight edge, as she is the better writer, and has an extremely good eye for describing recipes, even if they were not learned at her mother's knee.)
Ms. Uvezian gives us a lucid description of the history the culinary history and landscape of Arab, Turkish, Druse, Persian, and French influences on the cooking of the Levant. It should be no surprise that in spite of the presence of Israel smack dab in the middle of this region, ancient Hebrew and modern Jewish food traditions are not covered, although there are shelves of other books dedicated to this subject.
This cuisine is part of the greater Mediterranean world of food, with some very important differences from the western (European) Mediterranean of Spain, France, and Italy. First, there is no charcuterie to speak of, since there is the prohibition against eating pork. Thus, there is also no cooking with lard; however, the rich sources of olive oil and nut oils make this absence virtually unnoticed. And, butter is more important than in pig-rich Spain and southern Italy. Next, there is no cooking with wine, due to the Muslim prohibition against alcoholic beverages. And, cheese (especially hard aged cheese) is largely replaced by yoghurt (The primary hard cheeses mentioned are kashkawan, imported from Turkey or Rumania and the famous Italian Parmesan). On the positive side, there is far more cooking with sugar and other sweet products such as dried fruit. While the Italians give little thought to sweet desserts, the Arabs of the Levant love sweet desserts and pastries. They also make much heavier use of spice mixtures, based on their being closer to the source, and somewhat under the influence of the great Indian tradition of spice mixtures. Where the great French cuisine can muster but two named spice mixtures, the Levant has a dozen or more.
While the book is subtitled `A culinary journey through Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan', the direction of the text is oriented more toward a historical rather than a geographical perspective, with each chapter giving an historical overview of how various food lines evolved.
One of the great surprises, given the absence of a tradition of bars, taverns, or other alcoholic dispensers, is the tradition of Mazza, virtually identical in social and culinary function as the tapas of Spain, the merende of Italy, and the mezze of Greece and Turkey. The typical mazza spread looks remarkably like all those other traditions, with ample portions of olives, spiced nuts, fresh fruits and bread-based bites, but without the salamis and hams and wide variety of cheeses. In the place of cheese there is the rich variety of seed and eggplant-based dips plus yoghurt preparations.
Like the very best studies of Italian, Spanish, and French regional cooking, the book includes chapters on virtually every corner of the culinary landscape, including chapters on Appetizers; Salads; Soups; Dairy Products and Dishes; Egg Dishes; Fish and Shellfish; Poultry and Game Birds; Meat; Kibbeh; Stuffed Vegetables and Fruits; Grains and Pasta; Vegetables and Fruits; Sauces Marinades, Garnishes, and Stuffings; Pickles and Preserves; Breads and Savory Pastries; Desserts; and Beverages.
The book includes a list of middle-Eastern food markets from practically every state; however, these are only in major cities, and there are no Internet sources. If your family is from this region, this book is satisfying oasis of great culinary history, lore, and recipes. For all others, it's a great supplement to Ms. Wolfert's famous volume.
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