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Paula Wolfert is passionate about the Mediterranean its landscape, its people, its culture, and above all, its rich culinary tradition. Her five earlier cookbooks celebrated the sensuous pleasures of the Mediterranean kitchen and introduced a previously uninitiated American audience to an exciting new way of cooking and eating.
In her eagerly awaited Mediterranean Grains and Greens, Wolfert continues that tradition, focusing on the delectable grains and greens-based dishes she discovered as she spent five years traversing the Mediterranean region, from Spain in the west toIsrael, Lebanon, and Syria in the east, with stops in France, Italy, Turkey, and Greece.
Here are bountiful breads (Mirsini's Spiced Barley Bread); mouthwatering pastries (Spicy Beef, Olives, and Capers in Semolina Pastry Turnovers); nourishing comfort soups (Garlic Soup with Leafy Greens); crisp salads of mixed greens, cooked green salads, and savory grain salads (Samira's Tabbouleh with Parsley, Bulgur, Cinnamon, and Cumin); unusual desserts (Tunisian Homemade Couscous with Golden Raisins); and accompanying sauces, condiments, and seasonings. Though Mediterranean Grains and Greens is not a vegetarian cookbook, meat, fish, and poultry, when they appear, are used primarily as condiments and flavor enhancers rather than the main focus of a meal.
Throughout, Wolfert explains the historical and cultural significance of her dishes, sharing traditional preparation techniques as well as her adaptations for the American home kitchen. Ever conscious of the availability of ingredients in this country, she recommends readily available alternatives found in grocery stores and farmer's markets. Whether foraging for wild "apron greens" in the Turkish countryside, "listening" to risotto in Venice to tell if it's ready to eat, making homemade rustic pasta on the island of Crete, baking Sardinian flatbread the old-fashioned way, scrambling eggs with kofte along the Euphrates, or preparing the unusual "black paellas" of Valencia, Paula Wolfert shares her adventures in the engaging first-person stories that accompany each recipe. This comprehensive collection invites Paula Wolfert's loyal fans and followers to rediscover the joys of Mediterranean living, cooking, and eating right along with her. Like her earlier works, the enticing, wide-ranging Mediterranean Grains and Greens is destined to become a kitchen classic, a book that every serious cook, armchair traveler, and lover of good food will want to own.
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About the Author
Paula Wolfert is an expert on Mediterranean food and the author of nine cookbooks, including The Food of Morocco, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, and The Cooking of Southwest France. Wolfert has won the James Beard Award, the Julia Child Award, the M. F. K. Fisher Award, and the Tastemaker Award, and was a finalist for the André Simon Award. A regular columnist for Food & Wine, Wolfert lives in Sonoma, California.
Read an Excerpt
Lamb Soup with Green Garlic, Leeks, and Yogurt (Turkey)
Makes 3 quarts, serving 6
This dish, one of my all-time favorite yogurt dishes, has the qualities of both a soup and a stew, so rich and satisfying you probably won't need a main course to follow.
Green garlic shoots, which resemble baby leeks but in fact are unformed garlic cloves, appear at farmers' markets and in fine food stores in early spring. They're as subtly garlicky as young leeks are delicately oniony. When you combine the two you get something really special. When purchasing green garlic, look for long, firm stalks with crisp fresh leaves.
If you have a kitchen garden and want to grow your own green garlic, separate a head of garlic that has sprouted, divide the cloves, and push each into the ground with the sprout pointing up. Don't bury them too deep. Keep the soil moist. In less than three months you'll be able to harvest fresh stalks.
I wrote extensively about yogurt soups in The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean. Home cooks in the region have taught me an unusual method of handling yogurt so it doesn't break apart during cooking, while still producing silky, creamy yogurt dishes. Step 5 below explains the technique in detail.
This soup is served with a final last-moment swirl of sizzling oil and butter and ground spices on top.
6 cups plain yogurt
3 small spring lamb shanks (2 pounds), or 8 ounces boneless shoulder of lamb, trimmed of all fat and cut into large chunks
1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
1 1/2 pounds green garlic, untrimmed
1 1/2 pounds leeks, untrimmed
1 teaspoonsalt plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup whole milk
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Mint and Black Pepper Swirls
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 rounded tablespoons dried mint leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. One day in advance, drain the yogurt to make 3 cups.
2. The following day, place the meat and 2 quarts water in a 4- or 5-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil and skim. Add the drained chickpeas, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, trim the root ends and remove any yellowing tips from the green garlic and leeks. Make 1/4-inch slices crosswise, using approximately 9 inches of each firm stalk. You should have approximately 2 quarts. Wash and drain. When the soup has cooked 30 minutes, add the green garlic, leeks, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook 30 minutes longer, or until the garlic shoots and leeks are meltingly tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. (If the meat is not tender, scoop out the greens and continue cooking. Return the greens to the soup when the meat is also very tender.)
4. Remove the meat; discard the bones and cut into bite-size pieces. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and return to the soup. Reheat the soup to simmering.
5. In a second large saucepan, whisk the yogurt with the milk, egg, flour, and 1 tablespoon oil, until completely smooth. Set the yogurt over low heat and turn off the heat under the soup. Gradually stir 2 cups of the hot soup base into the yogurt in order to raise its temperature. When the temperature of the yogurt is hotter than the temperature of the soup, pour the yogurt back into the soup and set it on medium heat, stirring, until it just comes to a boil, about 15 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat. Correct the seasoning with salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Transfer to a soup tureen.
6. To make the mint and pepper swirls, press the ground black pepper and the dried mint leaves through a fine sieve directly over the soup to form a small pile. Heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and the butter in a small pan, bring to a sizzle, and pour over the pepper and mint. Stir gently to create Jackson Pollock-like swirls. Cover the soup and wait 5 minutes before serving.
With thanks to Ayfer Unsal for sharing this recipe.
Mustard Greens with Black-Eyed Peas and Rice (Turkey)
In the southeastern part of Turkey, in the town of Urfa, where I found this recipe, a unique smoky and slightly tart-flavored chili pepper is used to season kofte, stuffed vegetables, pilafs, kebabs, and stewed greens and beans.
Developing this recipe, I discovered that a combination of Turkish red pepper paste, smoky chili pepper such as chipotle or Spanish pimenton de la Vera, and black pepper simulated its special taste and stood up well to the assertive flavor of mustard greens.
I suggest serving this dish as a starter on a warmed shallow platter along with olives and cheese.
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1/4 cup medium- or long-grain rice
2 bunches strong-flavored mustard greens
6 ounces lean ground lamb
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 teaspoon tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon Turkish red pepper paste
1/4 teaspoon mildly hot red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 lemon wedges
1. Soak the black-eyed peas according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and cook in plenty of water until almost tender, 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, soak the rice in hot water for 10 minutes and drain. Wash the greens in several changes of water; trim the stems. Chop tender stems and greens coarsely to make 4 cups.
3. Place the meat and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 4 quart casserole. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, and continue cooking, covered, 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomato and pepper pastes and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook at a simmer for 20 minutes.
4. To the casserole, add the rice and the drained black-eyed peas. Simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the greens and continue cooking over medium heat until the greens, rice, and peas are all tender, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and stir in salt to taste.
5. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet, add the hot red pepper and black pepper, and allow to sizzle gently. Immediately drizzle over the bean mixture and stir to combine. Tip into a shallow serving dish and serve warm with wedges of lemon.
RecipeA Recipe from Mediterranean Grains and Greens
Spicy Lamb- and Rice-Stuffed Apricots
In Central Anatolia, where they stuff every sort of edible green, the cooks seem to have stuffings on their minds. This delicious dish of caramelized cinnamon-stuffed apricots or prunes is often served as a part of a large buffet.
6 ounces (about 24) pitted dried apricots or purple prunes
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
5 ounces ground beef or lamb with some fat
1/4 cup medium-grain rice, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes, rinsed, and drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1. Wash the dried fruit and soak in warm water for 10 minutes. Pour the soaking liquid and the fruit into a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile prepare the stuffing. In a small skillet, warm the oil, add the meat, and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the drained rice and let cool. Mix in the cinnamon and salt and pepper and knead the mixture until blended and smooth.
3. In a small saucepan bring 1/2 cup water and the sugar to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stuff the fruit, place side by side in a buttered skillet, and pour the sugared water down inside the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes before uncovering.
Recipe from Mediterranean Grains and Greens, copyright © 1998 by Paula Wolfert. All right reserved.