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The Essential Mediterranean    by Nancy Harmon Jenkins order for
Essential Mediterranean
by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2003 (2003)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This wonderfully eclectic cookbook explains 'How Regional Cooks Transform Key Ingredients into the World's Favorite Cuisines'. Nancy Harmon Jenkins introduces cooks 'to a cluster of core ingredients and foodways that are fundamental to all of the Mediterranean's diverse cuisines.' She believes that any cook can duplicate the Mediterranean attitude toward food with these core ingredients: salt, wine and vinegar, pasta and couscous, bread, olive oil, Old World legumes, New World peppers and tomatoes, dairy products, the family pig, and the resources of the sea.

In each chapter, The Essential Mediterranean travels to a different corner of the region 'to describe how and why these essential ingredients are obtained, what determines their quality, and where they fit in local cuisines.' Whatever you do, don't skip the introduction. You will then understand Jenkins' love of the ingredients and cuisine of the 'inner sea.' Imagine using North African Salt-Preserved Lemons. Never would have thought of it, but intend to rectify that immediately. Or Sardinian Crisp Bread Layered with Tomato Sauce and a Fried Egg. How's that for something new? And you can make it in your own kitchen.

Here's Homemade Semolina Pasta with Chickpeas. Be still my heart! There's Red Wine Risotto; Pork Braised to Taste Like Wild Boar; and Tunisian Fava-Chickpea-Bulgar Soup. Can anything with chickpeas be bad? Never. Ready to try Provencal Rouille on top of a plain baked potato? Glorious. Or Caponata Siciliana; Spanish Rabbit with Sweet Red Peppers; Neopolitan Christmas Soup of Pork and Greens; Catalan Estouffat. And then there's ... but you get the idea.

There are 170 recipes altogether, with interesting backgrounds of the different foods and areas involved. The Essential Mediterranean is a cookbook well worth its purchase price.

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