By The Editors of Vegetarian Times
From North Africa to the Levant to southern Europe, the Mediterranean is a region with an old and rich culinary heritage. A temperate climate provides the region's family farms, ancient vineyards, and rambling orchards with sufficient sunshine and rain to yield an abundant harvest of sun-ripened fruits and vegetables, herbs, spices, olive oil, and wine. The plant-based Mediterranean diet, consisting mostly of grains, legumes, pasta, bread, fruit, and vegetables, with a moderate intake of dairy products and very little in the way of meats or sweets, is recognized as one of the world's healthiest as well as one of the most robust and appealing.
Yet when it comes to the intricacies of preparing these healthful ingredients, Moroccan is not Lebanese is not Spanish. There is, contrary to first impressions, not a single Mediterranean cuisine but rather a cornucopia of cuisines representing the differing cooking techniques and dining customs of the nations of the region, the way each people use herbs and spices and combine vegetables, the unique character of each country's olive oil and wine. The subtle differences of the cuisines of the Mediterranean, as well as their shared characteristics, are captured in loving detail in Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean: More Than 250 Recipes for Pizzas, Pastas, Grains, Beans, Salads, and More.
Appetizers are popular through much of the Mediterranean—the Greeks serve mezze, the Spaniards tapas, the Italians antipasti, and the Moroccans and Algerians kemia. In Turkey, lavish dinners start with cold mezze and progress to hot. The sampling served here ranges from Greek Garlic and Potato Dip to Grape Leaves Stuffed with Bulgur, Apricots, and Mint and from a Layered Italian Torta to Mouhammara, a fiery dip that originated in Syria.
The selection of salads—served first in the Maghreb and Levant, as a palate cleanser after the main course in Europe—include Roasted Asparagus Salad with Orange, Winter Fig Salad, and Warm Potato Salad on Bitter Greens. Such soups are ladled as Cool Cantaloupe Soup, Provençal Soup with Pistou, a pounded, pestolike sauce of nuts, olive oil, garlic, and basil; and Savory Harira Soup, the aromatic soup with which Moroccan families traditionally break the fast each evening during Ramadan.
Savory pastries are extremely popular in the Mediterranean region, and they are on the menu for Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean in abundance: Bourekakia (Greek cheese puffs), Pipérade (a hearty Basque omelet), Pumpkin Flans with Olive Vinaigrette, Sardinian Rice Tart, Chickapea B 'stilla (Moroccan pastry in which chickpeas substitute for the usual chicken or pigeon), and Spanish Tomato Pie.
Grains, a staple of Mediterranean cuisines, show up in the form of Polenta Fava Bean Loaf Couscous with Turnips and Turnip Greens, Pilaf with Golden Onions and Pine Nuts, and Risotto with Artichokes. Pastas—popular in Italy, but also served in France, Greece, and Tunisia—include Goat Cheese and Radicchio Agnolotti (Piedmontese ravioli), Carrot and Leek Tortellacci ("big, bad tortellini"), and Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Spinach and Feta Cheese.
Vegetables are truly the cornerstone of all Mediterranean menus, and the editors of Vegetarian Times give us a wealth of vegetable entrees, from Garbanzo Cassoulet to Turkish Stuffed Baby Eggplants, Mushroom Pot Pie with Polenta Crust to Vegetable Tagine with Olives and Prunes typical of Morocco and Algeria. Among side dishes are Garlicky Beet Greens with Potatoes and Olives, Canary Islands Potatoes with Mojo Sauce, and String Beans with Walnuts and Pomegranate.
That bread is as much a mainstay of Mediterranean meals as are grains is reflected in the range of offerings, including Fennel Sesame Bread, Grape Focaccia, Pita-Wrapped Salads with Honey Dressing, Pepper and Provolone Sandwich, and Rosemary Breadsticks, along with a number of pizzas.
Although most dinners in the region conclude with simple fruit desserts, Mediterraneans do love their sweets, often eaten at breakfast or as a snack. We sample a Compote of Peaches, Pistachios, and Marsala, a Moroccan Sweet Couscous Dessert, and Yogurt Cheesecake with Black Pepper and Honey, along with a sampling of ices and cookies.
Replete with a selection of sauces, marinades, and fillings; menu suggestions; a glossary; and a source guide, Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean is the ultimate guide to the delectable and healthy cuisines of the Mediterranean region—a must for any serious cook's collection.
Founded more than twenty years ago, Vegetarian Times is the leading magazine on all things vegetarian, with a paid circulation of more than 350,000.
Melissa Clark writes about cuisine and other products of appetite. She has authored ten cookbooks and is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Time Out New York, and Chocolatier magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Vegetarian Times Cooks Mediterranean:
More Than 250 Recipes for Pizzas, Pastas,
Grains, Beans, Salads, and More
By The Editors of Vegetarian Times
William Morrow, January 2000
Information provided by the publisher.
This page created March 2000
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