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The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook Hardcover – October 3, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Mediterranean cooking expert Wolfert invites readers to sit back and relax, in this, her eighth book (the first has been in print for 30 years)-a charming paean to the kinds of foods that require time to prepare, but are worth the wait. That doesn't mean these are complicated recipes. In fact, most are paragons of the simplicity and highlighting of flavors that have made Mediterranean cooking so popular. Dishes such as a classic Cassoulet use long periods in the oven to produce meltingly soft meat. The dough for Turkish Flatbread Stuffed with Melted Cheese needs to rise overnight, but is produced in a food processor with little effort. A chapter on soups celebrates simmer-it-and-forget-it dishes such as Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Paprika and Mint Sizzle and Mediterranean Marinated Fish Soup, which calls first for soaking fish filets in a mixture of Pernod, wine, thyme and garlic, then covering them with hot broth to cook off any residual rawness. Other recipes simply need to sit for their flavors to meld, as is the case with Cypriot Fresh Fava Bean and Purslane Salad and El Churrasco's Gazpacho with Pine Nuts and Currants. Wolfert does her usual practiced job of seeking out unusual flavors in all corners of the Mediterranean, such as a Butternut Squash and Potato Pie with Tomato, Mint, and Sheep's Milk Cheese from Crete, and providing interesting historical background, like the headnote for Seven-Hour Garlic Crowned Lamb, a recipe culled from a 1929 cookbook of the foods of France's Perigord region.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Mediterranean cooking expert Wolfert invites readers to sit back and relax, in this, her eighth book (the first has been in print for 30 years)—a charming paean to the kinds of foods that require time to prepare, but are worth the wait. That doesn't mean these are complicated recipes. In fact, most are paragons of the simplicity and highlighting of flavors that have made Mediterranean cooking so popular. Dishes such as a classic Cassoulet use long periods in the oven to produce meltingly soft meat. The dough for Turkish Flatbread Stuffed with Melted Cheese needs to rise overnight, but is produced in a food processor with little effort. A chapter on soups celebrates simmer-it-and-forget-it dishes such as Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Paprika and Mint Sizzle and Mediterranean Marinated Fish Soup, which calls first for soaking fish filets in a mixture of Pernod, wine, thyme and garlic, then covering them with hot broth to cook off any residual rawness. Other recipes simply need to sit for their flavors to meld, as is the case with Cypriot Fresh Fava Bean and Purslane Salad and El Churrasco's Gazpacho with Pine Nuts and Currants. Wolfert does her us ual practiced job of seeking out unusual flavors in all corners of the Mediterranean, such as a Butternut Squash and Potato Pie with Tomato, Mint, and Sheep's Milk Cheese from Crete, and providing interesting historical background, like the headnote for Seven-Hour Garlic Crowned Lamb, a recipe culled from a 1929 cookbook of the foods of France's Perigord region. (Sept.)
Forecast: Wolfert has become the brand name for Mediterranean cooking, and this polished effort should sell well on the basis of name recognition and general excellence. The only possible impediment is its title and subtitle, which may scare off potential buyers who fear overly complicated recipes or even give the impression that these recipes require a slow cooker. (Publishers Weekly, August 4, 2003)
In her many previous books (e.g., the now classic Couscous and Other Good Foods from Morocco), Wolfert wrote about the Mediterranean lifestyle, and here she seeks to recapture that way of life whose "friendly but voluptuous eating experiences" are no longer so easy to find, regrettably. To that end, she offers recipes intended to be both satisfying to prepare and delicious to eat, homey and comforting dishes from all the countries of the region: brodetto Pasquale (Italian Easter Lamb Soup), Expatriate Roast Chicken with Lemon and Olives from Morocco, and Catalonian Fall-Apart Lamb Shanks. Although many recipes call for braising, stewing, and other techniques of long cooking, others are not limited to those techniques, for Wolfert's definition of slow cooking also encompasses marinating and similar technique - i.e., cooking that requires forethought but not necessarily hours at the stove: Overnight Gorgonzola with Saba Spread, for example, or Mediterranean Marinated Fish Soup, prepared in btwo stages. Slow-cooked food has become popular with home cooks and restaurant diners alike, and Wolfert's celebration of the pleasures of that approach with its dozens of delicious and unusual recipes, is highly recommended. (Library Journal, September 15, 2003)
If you buy only one cookbook this year, make it this one. Written by one of the reigning queens of culinary craft, its subtitled "Recipes for the Passionate Cook." The dishes featured may take time in the oven, but they're refreshingly simple given the astoundingly flavorful results. (Metropolitan Home, November 2003)
I defy a passionate cook (or a passionate cookbook collector) to resist The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, Paula Wolfert's newest (Wiley; $34.95). It looks almost edible: the cover with its spilled seeds of the pomegranate, the apple Eve probably passed on to Adam, the sensuous photographs. As all her pals know, the woman is a fanatic, a passionate pilgrim to faraway kitchens no matter how primitive, a champion of indigenous ingredients. But authenticity is never enough for Paula. If it isn't delicious, it isn't in her books. And she's there, too, urging you on, passing along little tricks, enticing you to the stove. I can't wait to taste salmon poached in olive oil with rhubarb, cucumber, and mint salad, or the sesame-studded tomato jam. Her slow-cooked duck with olives has the crisp skin and melting interior of a confit but needs no time to mellow. And word on the pastry circuit is that her classic canelés de Bordeaux-lush custard inside a burn-sugar shell-are a revelation. (New York, October 27, 2003)
Quick and easy may rule the day even in Rome, but in The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, Paula Wolfert celebrates a more leisurely way of cooking. Her carefully written recipes do require patience, effort, and the occasional uncommon ingredient (Wolfert thoughtfully provides mail-order and Internet sources). But anyone craving the unparalleled flavors that slow cooking coaxes from ingredients will be amply rewarded for his or her time. (Fine Cooking, January 2004)
"Already a classic, this book is full of lusty Mediterranean dishes you can eat with abandon." (New York Post, January 7, 2004)
Since the publication, 30 years ago, of Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, Paula Wolfert has been a precise, ardent student of cooking from Toulouse to Tunisia, and it is in large part due to her steady efforts that American cooks have tagines in their cupboards and preserved lemons in their larders.
Here, however, in this delightful, wandery book, she relaxes. This time around, the cook's cook-who spelled out in the indispensable Cooking of South-West France labyrinthine methods of confit and cassoulet-proffers, among many other good things (a quick confit and a labor-intensive recipe for those glorious pastries the French call canelés de Bordeaux), toast: grilled, browned, homely, and sublime, made with bread left out to dry. For a simple starter, toast is rubbed hard with ripe tomato and drizzled with olive oil ("pure heaven") or spread with thin-sliced avocados and sardines (a recipe from the Canary Islands). It's the base for myriad soups, including kale and black pepper soup from Siena and Easter lamb soup with marjoram and lemon.
What is more basic than toasted bread dunked in soup? Ease reigns, erudition is taken for granted. To augment these offerings, on which one could dine happily for a month of Sundays, dishes include a splendid ragout of artichokes cooked in a wine sauce spiked with orange zest, diced pancetta, and thyme; pork stew with prunes and onions simmered in olive oil enlivened with cinnamon; and slow-roasted chicken with sausage and porcini dressing. Voilà: supper for two, or four, or, as these recipes easily multiply, for ten.
"There are many slow recipes in my other books, but this is the first time I have fastened upon 'slow' as a theme," Wolfert writes. The word slow has lately become a catchword (I have on my desk three recent cookbooks that incorporate it). "Slow" dishes, she tells us, can be prepared in advance and are the opposite of fast food in that flavor is slowly coaxed from leeks and legumes or even fish (as in Wolfert's slow oven-steamed salmon).
Of course, pots have been left to simmer on the back of the stove since time immemorial. The difference between this particular book and a slew of others is Wolfert herself: decisive, imaginative, and well versed. She writes for home cooks who know their way around the kitchen and are ready to try something new, or at least newish: sesame-studded tomato jam or Sephardic oven-roasted eggs (baked for five hours). It's also for cooks who know, as she does, that cooking is really about having something good to eat when you're hungry, and, more often than not, that what's wanted is just a bit of something delicious. On toast. (Gourmet, February 2004)
"It is not likely that anyone outside Morocco knows more about that country's cooking than Paula Wolfert," (The New York Times, February 25, 2004)
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Top Customer Reviews
Worth taking the time
Wolfert's new book celebrates art of cooking.
Special To The Examiner
Published on Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Every season a new batch of cookbooks calibrated to the trend of the moment, like tapas or a miracle diet or a hot new chef, mount on bookstore tables. Yet every once in a while an inevitable classic like "The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen" by Paula Wolfert (Wiley, 2003, $30) appears. The difference between this expert's meticulous, intriguing, ground-breaking work and the facility of so many of the others is a little like the qualitative divide between novelists Jhumpa Lahiri and Danielle Steel.
Should they share the same table?
Wolfert's books change the way people cook. They appeal to those who get equal pleasure from both cooking and eating, those who love bones, big aroma and depth of flavor, and enjoy producing great, comforting meals in their own kitchens. Her books teach technique at the level of Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," and they excite and broaden taste by making accessible traditional flavors from a broad swath of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
If you need convincing, leaf through the four sections of seductive color photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer, the magician behind the natural, unstyled Saveur magazine food shot. Wolfert's dishes look crusty, saucy, golden, deep. You want to eat them, now, and by following Wolfert's instructions, you can, later.
This is food meant to be cooked at home, though these recipes do take time, not so much in active or fussy preparation, but in long cooking, refrigerating, skimming, and finishing over several days. The cook can't pick up this book two hours before dinner to find an idea. These recipes require shopping and patience -- finding good-looking short ribs or oxtails at the meat counter and accepting that you won't be eating them for two days. However, the rewards of deferred gratification in this case outweigh the frustration of smelling the slowly bubbling pot and having to make do with a dinner of salad and scrambled eggs while the dish cooks.
Some of the recipes in this book qualify as slow only because they call for soaking chickpeas overnight, as is the case with Maghrebi Veal Meatballs with Spinach and Chickpeas, a lush casserole full of aromatic spices that is a complete meal in itself. I substituted ground round steak instead of veal and went the whole nine yards by making my own "Le Tabil Spice Mix," a blend of ground coriander, caraway, cayenne, fennel, cumin, black pepper, tumeric and cloves to season the meatballs. (Wolfert offers the substitute of ground coriander mixed with a pinch of ground caraway.)
The resulting casserole of creamy chickpeas, bright green spinach and spicy meatballs in a lusty gravy that conveniently uses the chickpea cooking water as a base -- very little stock is required in Wolfert's recipes, a tip-off that they truly come from home kitchens -- tasted authentically and thrillingly Tunisian. It looked as sexy and green as its photograph right after I finished cooking it, but it tasted better and better for two more days as I ate it cold, or reheated and garnished with yogurt. You get as many days of pleasurable eating as days of preparation for Wolfert's slow Mediterranean dishes.
The development of flavor between the just-completed dish, and the same dish after it has rested overnight, is almost startling to those of us used to eating quickly prepared foods. Taking the time to build a fire and roast whole eggplant (which are so good now) over it until they become charred on the outside and creamy inside, and then chopping it with ricotta, walnuts, a little vinegar, parsley, olive oil and a roasted green pepper creates a dish that evolves dramatically the longer it sits in the refrigerator. The flavors marry and mellow. The smokiness adds dimension. The effort it took to make the dish more than pays you back at the other end.
Maybe my favorite recipe of all (among those I've tried) is the one for oxtails. I've cooked oxtails quite a bit, using Judy Roger's recipe in her fine new book, and my grandmother's. But Wolfert's Stop-and-Go Braised Oxtails with Oyster Mushrooms creates the ultimate oxtail. The meat maintains enormous character and a velvety texture while still easily coming off the bone, and the sauce packs layers of flavor without an ounce of fat. You'll have to buy the book to get this recipe, and the one for the Golden Potato Gratin that Wolfert recommends as the accompaniment.
I feel that I personally owe Wolfert a debt of gratitude for putting so much work into every recipe, for curating and translating recipes that reflect a lifetime of travel, research and experience in the kitchens of the world. When I cook and eat these dishes I think about the places they come from and the women, and men, who have made them over generations. Wolfert's work deserves a prize that goes beyond the arc of food -- a Nobel for cultural understanding, a Mac-Arthur for culinary anthropology.
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