Dieticians and physicians have long promoted the Mediterranean diet for improving cardiovascular health and lengthening life spans. But much of the discussion reduces the lifestyles and foodways of Mediterranean peoples to simply cooking with particular ingredients such as olive oil, legumes, and lean proteins. This approach overlooks how and why different countries around the Mediterranean Sea basin—including France and Spain in the northwest; Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey in the east; and Greece, Italy, and North Africa in between—came to develop their cuisines around those foods.

Many of this season’s Mediterranean cookbooks shift the focus away from diet and health, recentering pleasure and conviviality while contextualizing dishes within the cultures, terroirs, and seasons of the region. Alongside recipes and their histories, the authors share stories about farmers, markets, and purveyors, making these titles as transportive as they are instructive. The grand tour starts here.


At Ryland Peters & Small, editorial director Julia Charles has seen increased interest in culturally specific cookbooks. “Readers really want to understand where this food has come from or why it’s come from this particular place,” she says. “By focusing on a particular region, it’s possible to fully understand why food plays such an important part in the society there.”

When Charles sought to acquire a new Spanish cookbook, she approached María José Sevilla, a food writer who splits her time between London and Andalusia in southern Spain. Sevilla wrote Cocina de Andalucía (Apr.) while living in the town of Aracena. She opens the book with a section on the tapas and raciones the region is well-known for and also shares a bevy of recipes that may be far less familiar to readers but are no less traditional. For instance, Sevilla explains that molletes andaluces—toasted rolls often topped with grated tomatoes seasoned with olive oil and salt—are so common in the area that they’re as likely to be eaten for breakfast at home as at a restaurant.


American food and travel writer and food stylist Rebekah Peppler moved to Paris in 2018. Researching her first two cookbooks, Apéritif and À Table, piqued her interest in exploring the south of France. “When you think of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, from an outsider’s perspective, you think of the sea or olive trees and fields of sunflowers and rosé,” she says. But the region, which stretches from the marshes of the Camargue to the mountainous border with Italy, encompasses much more.

Peppler says that her goal with the forthcoming Le Sud (Chronicle, Apr.) was to “really delve into the culture and the foodways and the way that life is being lived around the table in the south of France.” To that end, she shares classic Provençal recipes like panisse (chickpea flour fries) as well as modern interpretations. One standout is the pissaladière, a tart topped with caramelized onions and anchovies. Peppler’s recipe is leavened with yeast, giving it a focaccia-like consistency. She says when she makes it, it makes her think of a bakery in Antibes where she ate a similar pissaladière.

Readers may not have the same sorts of memories to call up, but the book’s photography is an evocative stand-in. Peppler and Joann Pai, a Canadian photographer who lives in Paris, collaborated on atmospheric shots at locations including La Pitchoune, Julia Child’s onetime vacation home in Provence. “We wanted it to feel like you’re at the table,” Peppler says.

Rosa Jackson’s Niçoise (Norton, Apr.) likewise takes readers to Provence, focusing on the French- and Italian-influenced cuisine of Nice. Jackson, who is Canadian, has lived in France since 1995 and operates a cooking school in Nice called Les Petits Farcis, named after the stuffed vegetables that are a city specialty.

“Rosa has been teaching this cuisine for decades,” says Melanie Tortoroli, the Norton senior editor who acquired the title. “She’s also on the ground, talking to what she calls the mommies—the elder generation of grandmothers and mothers who are not sitting down and writing recipes.” Jackson transmits what she’s learned in chapters organized by season—summer, for instance, brings a lesson in the history and mechanics of composing salade Niçoise.


Home cooks looking to infuse a bit of the Italian way of life into the everyday can turn to a pair of books that offer different takes on the practice of sharing a break at the table. Stef Ferrari’s Stuzzichini (Voracious, Apr.) highlights small bites to serve during aperitivo hour alongside Aperol spritzes, while Anna Francese Gass’s Italian Snacking (Union Square, Mar.) takes an all-day approach, from midmorning biscotti amaretti to late-night street food like spiedini di carne, the stuffed meat skewers popular in Palermo.

In Italian Coastal (Thames & Hudson, May), Amber Guinness, who was born in London and raised in Tuscany, leads readers on a gastronomic road trip along the Tyrrhenian Sea, a part of the Mediterranean. She begins the journey in her home region then heads down through Naples and the Amalfi Coast and on to Sicily, interweaving recipes with essays about the local histories, travel attractions, and culinary specialties of different stretches of the coastline.

The seven regions of Italy that hug the Tyrrenhian have different cuisines but are united by ingredients that thrive in the coastal climate and soils—tomatoes, zucchini, oregano—as well as the tenets of cucina povera, or poor cooking, in which nothing goes to waste. As Kirsten Abbott, who as publishing director at Thames & Hudson Australia acquired Italian Coastal, explains, “The Mediterranean diet, as it’s now called, is actually extremely localized cooking that grew out of necessity.”


Diane Kochilas has been writing Hellenic cookbooks for decades, including My Greek Table, which shares a title with her culinary travel show on public television, and Ikaria, named for her island home, one of the world’s “blue zones” of longevity. In The Ikaria Way (Griffin, Mar.), Kochilas leads readers through her Ikarian pantry, explaining the health benefits of ingredients like fava beans and garlic and the history behind why they’re used so often in Greek recipes.

Exploring the background of a cuisine adds value for cookbook buyers, says Artisan publisher and editorial director Lia Ronnen, who acquired Shaily Lipa’s Yassou (June). At a time when people can find recipes for just about anything online, Ronnen says, “It’s the duty of the cookbook to use its form in the best possible way. Storytelling, as opposed to just going from recipe to recipe, is going to lead to a much richer reading experience.”

Ronnen says that Lipa, an Israeli cookbook author and TV personality who grew up in a family of Greek and Turkish origin, balances cultural narrative with accessible recipes: “Shaily is an extremely accomplished home cook who understands making things full of flavor and health and using local ingredients, but not making it overwrought.” Ronnen is a particular fan of Shaily’s spanakopita recipe, which takes the form of a simple fold-over phyllo-and-spinach pie that eschews the typical, and more complicated, layers.

The Levant

The area along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, historically known as the Levant, comprises roughly present-day Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and parts of Egypt and Turkey. Salma Hage, a home cook from Lebanon, explores the threads that unify the region’s cuisines in her latest book, The Levantine Vegetarian (Phaidon, May).

Phaidon associate publisher Emilia Terragni, who has worked with Hage on all her cookbooks, says the book emphasizes that “food brings all of these different countries together, and there are many recipes and ingredients that are common throughout all these countries.” Hummus and falafel, for instance, are served in different ways across the Levant, and sumac adds color and zip to countless dishes.

The Levantine Vegetarian features an extensive selection of snacks and small plates like chickpea pancakes that are designed for sharing. “That is really something that is embedded in the culture of the Mediterranean,” Terragni says, “from the Spanish tapas, to the Italian antipasti, to the mezze.”

French Palestinian chef and hotelier Fadi Kattan’s Bethlehem (Hardie Grant, May) serves as both a celebration of his home city’s cuisine and an opportunity to share ancestral culinary traditions. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Kattan had to close Fawda, his Bethlehem restaurant, he turned his attention to interviewing the farmers and artisans who are the keepers of that knowledge.

Jenny Wapner, Hardie Grant’s North American publisher, acquired Kattan’s book in part out of a desire to showcase these stories. “I thought it was a beautiful way to create continuity between what he was doing as a chef and what had been passed down to him from the various food producers who lived in and around Bethlehem,” Wapner says. Profiles of these producers appear throughout the book, among recipes for dishes including purslane dip and kofta in grape leaves.

Wapner hopes that Bethlehem will offer readers a deeper understanding of Palestinian culture. “If you’re outside of the region, you hear about it in terms of war coverage or political coverage, or you think of these places as locations in Bible stories,” she says. “This book provides a human-size history as Fadi has experienced it.”


The next cookbook from chef José Andrés, Zaytinya (Ecco, Mar.), takes its title from the restaurant he opened in Washington, D.C., in 2002. Andrés may be best known for his humanitarian work with World Central Kitchen and his Spanish restaurants, but Zaytinya showcases his longtime appreciation of the culinary cultures of Greece, Lebanon, and Turkey. The cookbook adapts favorite recipes from the restaurant, including Adana kebabs, or grilled ground lamb kebabs from the city of the same name in southern Turkey.

Mediterra by Ben Tish (Bloomsbury, Aug.) zooms out to encompass all of the Mediterranean. The U.K. chef, who in previous books homed in on the foods of Sicily (Sicilia) and the southern Mediterranean (Moorish), has long admired the region’s cooking, and his extensive travels along the sea’s shores inform his work.

“You can trace different flows of spices and styles of cooking across these countries,” says Hattie LeFavour, Mediterra’s U.S. editor. For instance, Tish shares recipes for both Turkish and Egyptian stuffed vegetables, and eggplant is at the center of Greek moussaka as well as French ratatouille.

While the book is more concerned with cultural context than with health benefits, “this is the quintessential Mediterranean diet book in a more literal sense,” LeFavour says, “in that it centers on things like good quality olive oil, and fresh seafood and fresh vegetables.”

Indeed, the cookbooks discussed in this piece serve as a reminder of what the Mediterranean diet is all about: eating locally, seasonally, and communally.

Kristen Martin is a cultural critic in Philadelphia and the author of The Sun Won’t Come Out Tomorrow, forthcoming from Bold Type.

Read more from our cookbooks feature:

4 New Mediterranean Cookbooks for Simple Home Cooking
The Feel Good Foodie, Taste of Home, and others infuse the region’s flavors into everyday dishes

Playful, Flirty Lebanese Cooking: PW talks with Edy Massih
In ‘Keep It Zesty,’ the proprietor of Edy’s Grocer in Brooklyn shares favorite childhood dishes and updated recipes