cover image The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean: 300 Healthy, Vibrant, and Inspired Recipes

The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean: 300 Healthy, Vibrant, and Inspired Recipes

Paula Wolfert. William Morrow Cookbooks, $40 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016651-9

Food fads may come and go, but meanwhile Wolfert ( Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco ) runs off to some little-documented area of the world and puts it on the (American) culinary map. One of the first food writers to recognize the importance of Mediterranean cuisines, she turns now to the Eastern Mediterranean. Encompassing portions of the Balkans, Turkey, Syria and Greece, the diet of the region depends on grains, legumes, vegetables and nuts, while avoiding meat or using it in small portions. True, this style of cooking is ideal for Americans obsessed with the Food Pyramid dietary guidelines, but Wolfert does not belabor the point. Not only does she offer wholesome recipes easily adaptable to American homes, but she also includes some of the more unusual preparations. A Macedonian nettle and cheese pie is so delicious, she claims, that Wolfert began growing the prickly greens herself. The traditional meaty kibbeh, usually a lump of ground lamb, she reinterprets as a pumpkin kibbeh, stuffed with spinach, chick peas and walnuts. Voices from native cooks, visited over a span of five years, add color, humor and realism to the melting pots of Macedonia, Turkey, the Levant and the Republic of Georgia. Wolfert is careful to add acknowledgements and extra tidbits of advice to help preparations go smoothly. Moreover, the general tone of the book is cheerful and encouraging. No matter how stinging the nettles, one is tempted to grab them firmly, rub them with kosher salt to remove the stings and blanch them for a pie. (June)