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Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean Hardcover – May 2, 2006
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“Only a brilliant chef like Ana could have created such a warm and evocative cookbook filled with enticing recipes.” (Clifford A. Wright, author of the James Beard Cookbook of the Year A Mediterranean Feast)
“This book beautifully codifies the marvelous dishes I’ve eaten at Oleana, all of which bear her special inventive touch.” (Paula Wolfert, author of The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean)
“A thousand and one nights worth of cooking. . . . Sortun’s recipes are as seamless as her food.” (Los Angeles Times)
About the Author
Ana Sortun was named the “Best Chef: Northeast” at the 2005 James Beard Awards for her restaurant, Oleana, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which she opened in 2001. Known for unique Arabic-Mediterranean food, Oleana has received much local and national praise. Sortun holds a degree from Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris. She lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter.
Top customer reviews
Now comes Ana Sortun. She has demystified the exotic herbs and spices that define the Levantine palate by describing how she discovered the real thing in Turkey and/or other eastern Mediterranean lands.
She should know because her Cambridge, Mass restaurant Oleana offers most every item featured in this handsome treasury of easy-to-follow, step by step recipes. True to its eponymous title, the book is organized by spices, i.e. the predominant seeds, leaves, and blossoms that flavor her signature dishes. It also includes a comprehensive list of web sites and shops that carry admittedly exotic or hard to get ingredients.
One reason for her success is the descriptive passages preceding each recipe. She tells stories of where she encountered the ingredients. She describes the (mostly) women and men who introduced them to her. Then she shows how she and her talented restaurant staff (everyone is credited, including her farmer husband) have adapted traditional recipes for the modern palate. This approach is more than nouveau, more than fusion. It takes tradition, and then expands on it with surprising results. Thus, hummus the old way morphs into a delectable parsnip creation, and falafel becomes a crunchy spinach/chick pea marriage.
But Sortun doesn't stop there. Because she has trained in France, she shares secrets about that country's cuisine. She generalizes about the use of cream and butter and riffs on why cooks should avoid extra virgin oil when sauteing. This is not a cook book for beginners, but, in the great narrative tradition of M.K. Fisher and Julia Child, it is a celebration of creating authentic gustatory delights - a tour de force truly enhanced by the spices of life.
I'd highly recommend any of the meat dishes (I like meat), or the sauces - Ana does an excellent job at her restaurants (we love Oleana), and this book makes you feel like you could be a chef for her!