Mediterranean Cooking


Matthew Kenney's Mediterranean Cooking
Great Flavors for the American Kitchen

Mediterranean Cooking

A young American chef's fresh new interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine, Matthew Kenney's Mediterranean Cooking by Matthew Kenney and Sam Gugino, is a masterful blend of tradition, passion, and creativity. Celebrated chef Matthew Kenney opened his restaurant, Matthew's, to instant critical acclaim, including a listing in Zagat as one of the top five Mediterranean restaurants in New York City. Recently, he was named a "Rising Star Chef in America" by PBS television. And now with this seminal new cookbook, Kenney shares his signature style of relaxed Mediterranean cooking in 150 wonderful dishes anyone can prepare at home.

Broadening the dimensions of ever-popular Mediterranean cuisine (which draws its influence mainly from Spain, France, Italy, and Greece), "Mediterranean Rim" cuisine expands to include the heady spices and cooking techniques of Morocco and other North African countries, as well as those of the eastern Mediterranean from Egypt to Turkey. Writes Kenney:

"My travels in the lands around the Mediterranean brought many culinary revelations. One was eating grilled pigeon in Egypt. The sensual satisfaction of tearing apart the warm, crisp bird with my fingers, then dipping it into cool, soothing tahini-yogurt sauce was incredible. Another was a plate of fettuccine topped with shaved, fresh white truffles in Milan during the peak of truffle season. The truffles, kept under glass domes like jewels in almost every restaurant, were intoxicating... I also discovered the spices and slow cooking techniques of North Africa, and the powerful cheeses of Spain. Olives and capers became my secret weapons."

Relying on widely available ingredients, simplified cooking techniques, and common kitchen equipment (no couscoussiere is needed for the couscous or tagine for the Moroccan stew), Kenney makes it possible for the everyday cook to enjoy sensuous culinary traditions of the Mediterranean rim from the hill towns of Spain and Italy to the sun-baked villages of North Africa.

About the Authors:

Matthew Kenney grew up in Maine. He came to New York to pursue a career in law but instead attended the French Culinary Institute and went into the restaurant business. He now owns Matthew's, Mezze, and Monzu—three highly successful restaurants in New York City. Matthew Kenney has appeared on the Today Show, PBS, Television Food Network, and elsewhere; has contributed to Food & Wine; and holds cooking classes internationally. Among other awards, Mr. Kenney has been nominated twice for the James Beard Rising Star Chef award, and has been named as one of Food & Wine 's "Ten Best New Chefs in America."

Sam Gugino is a columnist for Wine Spectator and a frequent contributor to the New York Times. He lives in New York City.

Paul Franz-Moore is a San Francisco-based still-life photographer specializing in food.

Matthew Kenney's Mediterranean Cooking
By Matthew Kenney and Sam Gugino
Photos by Paul Franz-Moore
Chronicle Books, $24.95
167 pages, 1997
ISBN 0-8118-1443-2
Information provided by the publisher

Lamb Tagine

Lamb Tagine
with Dried Figs and Almonds

Although I love the flavor of most tagines—Moroccan stews cooked in an earthenware pot with a conical cover—I find the texture of many to be mushy and one-dimensional. What makes this tagine unique is the crisp top it achieves from the final baking step. This is a great party or buffet dish because it can be prepared ahead right up to the point at which it goes into the oven to crisp the top. Rich and filling, this tagine needs nothing more than a salad or grilled vegetables to turn it into a satisfying meal.

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-1/2pounds boned lamb shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-l/2-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground dried chili peppers such as ancho, or chili powder
1 cup dried figs, quartered
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro plus 8 sprigs of cilantro

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the sesame seeds on a small sheet pan or pie plate and toast in the oven 6 minutes. Add the almonds and toast another 8 to 9 minutes until golden brown. Set aside.

Put the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Brown on all sides in 2 batches, about 10 to 12 minutes total. Add the garlic, onions, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, and ground chilies to the lamb. Stir well and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 5 minutes. Add 2-2/3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. It should be slightly springy, but easy to pull apart with your fingers.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Strain the liquid from the stew into a small saucepan or bowl and skim the fat. Check for salt and pepper and keep warm. Mix the meat and figs and spread in a single layer in an ovenproof serving dish. Pour the sauce over the meat and figs and sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 2 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped cilantro and garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serve from the hot dish.

Matthew Kenney's Mediterranean Cooking
By Matthew Kenney and Sam Gugino
Photos by Paul Franz-Moore
Chronicle Books, $24.95
167 pages, 1997
ISBN 0-8118-1443-2
Recipe and photos reprinted by permission.

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This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.

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This page modified January 2007

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