The New Book of Middle Eastern Food: The Classic Cookbook, Expanded and Updated, with New Recipes and Contemporary Variations on Old Themes

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9780375405068: The New Book of Middle Eastern Food: The Classic Cookbook, Expanded and Updated, with New Recipes and Contemporary Variations on Old Themes

In this updated and greatly enlarged edition of her Book of Middle Eastern Food, Claudia Roden re-creates a classic. The book was originally published here in 1972 and was hailed by James Beard as "a landmark in the field of cookery"; this new version represents the accumulation of the author's thirty years of further extensive travel throughout the ever-changing landscape of the Middle East, gathering recipes and stories.

Now Ms. Roden gives us more than 800 recipes, including the aromatic variations that accent a dish and define the country of origin: fried garlic and cumin and coriander from Egypt, cinnamon and allspice from Turkey, sumac and tamarind from Syria and Lebanon, pomegranate syrup from Iran, preserved lemon and harissa from North Africa. She has worked out simpler approaches to traditional dishes, using healthier ingredients and time-saving methods without ever sacrificing any of the extraordinary flavor, freshness, and texture that distinguish the cooking of this part of the world.

Throughout these pages she draws on all four of the region's major cooking styles:
        -        The refined haute cuisine of Iran, based on rice exquisitely prepared and embellished with a range of meats, vegetables, fruits, and nuts
        -        Arab cooking from Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan--at its finest today, and a good source for vegetable and bulgur wheat dishes
        -        The legendary Turkish cuisine, with its kebabs, wheat and rice dishes, yogurt salads, savory pies, and syrupy pastries
        -        North African cooking, particularly the splendid fare of Morocco, with its heady mix of hot and sweet, orchestrated to perfection in its couscous dishes and tagines

From the tantalizing mezze--those succulent bites of filled fillo crescents and cigars, chopped salads, and stuffed morsels, as well as tahina, chickpeas, and eggplant in their many guises--to the skewered meats and savory stews and hearty grain and vegetable dishes, here is a rich array of the cooking that Americans embrace today. No longer considered exotic--all the essential ingredients are now available in supermarkets, and the more rare can be obtained through mail order sources (readily available on the Internet)--the foods of the Middle East are a boon to the home cook looking for healthy, inexpensive, flavorful, and wonderfully satisfying dishes, both for everyday eating and for special occasions.

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Review:

Claudia Roden has updated and expanded her popular 1968 cookbook for a more savvy and knowledgeable audience. While still filled with old favorites, the third edition acknowledges food processors and other handy kitchen tools, as well as this generation's preference for lower-fat recipes. Not that every recipe is changed; many are not, but Roden does attempt not to rely too much on butter and oils.

Begin your meal with mezze, derived from the Arabic t'mazza, meaning "to savor in little bites." Try Cevisli Biber (Roasted Pepper and Walnut Paste) spread on warm pita bread. Serve with Salata Horiatiki (Greek Country Salad) and then move on to a main dish of Roast Fish with Lemon and Honeyed Onions or Lamb Tagine with Artichokes and Fava Beans. The cookbook wouldn't be complete without sections on rice, couscous, and bulgur--try Addis Polow (Rice with Lentils and Dates) or Kesksou Bidaoui bel Khodra (Beber Couscous with Seven Vegetables). Finish with a traditional dessert like Orass bi Loz (Almond Balls).

Mixed in with the recipes are Roden's personal experiences as a cook and recipe archivist, and Middle Eastern tales that illustrate the history of a particular recipe or food group. "It was once believed olive oil could cure any illness except the one by which a person was fated to die," Roden writes. "People still believe in its beneficial qualities and sometimes drink it neat when they feel anemic of tired." She also includes a detailed introduction to the terrain, history, politics, and society of the Middle East so her readers can more fully understand why the cuisine has evolved the way it has. "Cooking in the Middle East is deeply traditional and nonintellectual," she says, "an inherited art." It's our good fortune to inherit such a rich tradition. --Dana Van Nest

About the Author:

Claudia Roden was born and raised in Cairo. She completed her formal education in Paris and then moved to London to study art. She travels extensively as a food writer. Her previous books include the James Beard Award-winning Book of Jewish Food, as well as Coffee: A Connoisseur's Companion, The Good Food of Italy--Region by Region, Everything Tastes Better Outdoors, and Mediterranean Cookery, which was published in conjunction with her BBC television series on the Mediterranean. In 1989 she won the two most prestigious food prizes in Italy, the Premio Orio Vergani and the Premio Maria Luigia, Duchessa di Parma, for her London Sunday Times Magazine series The Taste of Italy. She has won six Glenfiddich prizes, including 1992 Food Writer of the Year for articles in the Daily Telegraph and The Observer magazine, and the Glenfiddich Trophy awarded "in celebration of a unique contribution to the food that we eat in Britain today." In 1999 she won a Versailles Award in France, and Prince Claus of the Netherlands presented her with the Prince Claus Award "in recognition of exceptional initiatives and achievements in the field of culture." She lives in London.

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