In this authoritative and anecdotal cookbook, award-winning author Martha Rose Shulman captures the vibrant flavors of the Mediterranean region in more than 500 delicious vegetarian dishes that will appeal to everyone. The book represents years of meticulous research gleaned from Shulman's travels through France, Spain, Italy, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, North Africa, and the Middle East. She presents authentic contemporary variations as well. You'll dine with her in Greek olive groves, feast on recipes handed down from mother to daughter for generations, and she offers her own tomatoes and fresh sardines in Croatia, savor coffee gelato in the streets of Bologna. At every turn in the road there is a new culinary reward.
Whether you are a vegetarian or a dedicated meat eater, Shulman's recipes are substantial enough to satisfy any appetite. Included are such tempting creations as Majorcan Bread and Vegetable Soup, Provençal Chick Pea Salad, Pasta with Ligurian Artichoke Sauce, Greek Cauliflower Gratin with Feta and Olives, Balkan-Style Moussaka, North African Carrot "Compote," and Sweet Dessert Couscous with Citrus and Pomegranate. There is also an entire chapter devoted to the renowned "little foods" of the Mediterranean: tapas from Spain, antipasti and merende from Italy; meze from the eastern and southern Mediterranean, and more. In addition, the book features a glossary of useful cookware and indispensable pantry staples and the best online sources for hard-to-find ingredients.
As Martha Rose Shulman herself says, "Mediterranean food enthralls me." Readers of Mediterranean Harvest will be enthralled as well.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Cooking Mediterranean Food
Mediterranean food is easy to cook. That's one of the things I like about it: It's straightforward. It's also forgiving. When you follow one of these recipes, you might find yourself short on an ingredient, like garlic, or parsley. If you use two cloves instead of four, or have to forgo that tablespoon of parsley, your dish will still taste good (as long as you make sure to taste it). Forgot to buy peppers for your ratatouille? Make an eggplant and zucchini stew without the peppers; it'll be wonderful.
I myself use much less olive oil than cooks in the Mediterranean are accustomed to using. In that sense, some of the recipes in this book are not quite authentic. When I approach a dish, I always ask myself how much oil is really needed for the dish to taste good and to cook the ingredients sufficiently. To my palate, it's usually less than is called for in the authentic recipe. Not that you won't find a few deep-fried dishes here, like falafel and a deep-fried cauliflower dish from the Middle East that I have always found irresistible. But I have left out others, like beignets and other fritters, which could have had a place in these pages.
You need little in the way of fancy equipment and kitchen skills for these recipes. All that is required is that you pay attention, as you must do in all cooking. A good knife and the ability to use it to chop produce; a large, heavy frying pan and some wooden spoons and spatulas; a couple of lidded saucepans and a soup pot will easily get you started.
The list of equipment that follows covers the items I used for testing the recipes in Mediterranean Harvest.
KNIVES AND CUTTING BOARDS
Chef's knife: The most important tool in your kitchen is your chef's knife. I use a sturdy stainless-steel 8-inch knife. (Some cooks prefer a longer blade.) Keep it sharp by honing it and sharpening it regularly. A dull knife can be more dangerous than a sharp one.
Paring knife: The other essential knife is a good, sturdy paring knife.
Knife steel: For regular honing of your knives; get into the habit of honing before and after each use.
Serrated bread knife: You can also use it for slicing tomatoes.
Large cutting board (or boards): It's important to have a large, heavy cutting board. You'll be amazed by how much space two chopped onions can take up, and it's so convenient to have them all in front of you and not spilling onto the floor. I prefer wood, though I have some small plastic ones for the odd job. I like to use a wooden or plastic cutting board with a lip for tomatoes and other juicy foods like stone fruits, melons, and citrus, so that the juice runs into the canal and not onto my floor.
Mortar and pestle: This is still not a common item in most American kitchens, but a mortar and pestle really is essential in the Mediterranean kitchen. Once you have one around, you'll use it all the time. I have a small marble one for crushing small amounts of spices or garlic, and a larger, olive wood mortar for larger quantities of food.
Kitchen scale: I have a mechanical scale with a large, wide bowl, and a digital one. You don't need both. Just choose a scale with a surface large enough to rest a medium-size bowl on.
Kitchen timer: I am totally dependent on my digital kitchen timers. Especially for long-simmering dishes, you'll need to be reminded to check them as you go about the rest of your day's business. Using a timer can be a great stress-reducer when it comes to cooking; you don't have to be watching your own watch. I like the digital timers because they will ring for a minute, and I can hear mine from two rooms away. And once they stop ringing, they begin to count up, so you will know exactly how long you've continued to cook something if you didn't get to it right away.
Wooden spoons and spatulas: Look for large, long-handled spoons with wide bowls. If you travel, always look for wooden spoons in markets. Some of my best, widest spoons, with really useful long handles, came from markets in Brazil and Mexico. Wooden implements will last much longer if you don't wash them in the dishwasher.
Chinese wire-mesh deep-fry skimmer (or spider): I use this wire-mesh implement all the time, and not for deep-frying. Mostly I use it to transfer blanched greens and other vegetables from boiling water to a bowl of cold water, or pasta to a serving bowl. It's one of my most useful tools.
Cheese grater: I find that the one I use most often is the little rotary Mouli that I've had since I began to cook.
Microplane: One of the great new gadgets to come into our kitchens in the last 20 years is this long, fine grater that looks like a carpenter's plane. I use mine for zesting citrus, for grating small amounts of Parmesan and Romano cheese, and for grating nutmeg.
Strainer: A medium-size strainer, the kind you can find in a supermarket, is an item I could not be without.
Salad spinner: Another essential. I find it as useful for cleaning herbs and greens like Swiss chard as I do for washing lettuce.
Heavy rolling pin: For rolling out crusts.
Stainless-steel bowls: Have as many as you have room for. Large ones are very useful for mixing up ingredients for tarts, gratins, casseroles, and for all sorts of food prep.
Pyrex measuring cups: Have a 2-cup and a 4-cup for liquids.
Nesting measuring cups: Stainless or plastic for dry ingredients.
Measuring spoons: Have two sets, one for dry ingredients and one for wet.
Spray bottle, or mister: I use mine to spray breads when I bake them. The moisture helps the bread to develop a hard, crunchy crust.
Pasta rolling machine: You can buy attachments for some standing mixers, but the most reliable machine for rolling and cutting pasta may be the inexpensive hand-crank models that clamp to a table or work surface.
Heavy Nonstick Cookware
The quality of nonstick cookware has improved tremendously. As restaurants have begun to choose them for their high-volume line-cooking, manufacturers have had to come up with nonstick cookware that can withstand restaurant wear-and-tear and the high heat of commercial stoves. You can now find this heavy-duty cookware in a range of stores, from fancy cookware stores, to hardware stores, to restaurant supply outlets. Make sure to look for the heavy restaurant pans. I have great, moderately priced pans made by WearEver, NordicWare, and my current favorite, Anolon.
CARE OF NONSTICK COOKWARE
Nonstick cookware has come a long way since the days of peeling Teflon. But you still have to take precautions so the pots and pans won't scratch. You should also take care not to expose them to extremely high temperatures.
. Always use wooden spoons or heatproof plastic when stirring food. . Wash nonstick cookware carefully in warm water, and avoid using rough surfaces to clean. The cookware will last longer if you keep it out of the dishwasher. . If you have to stack the pans to store them, place paper towels between them, or stack in reverse order of size so that the bottom of one pan doesn't scratch the inside of another. . Do not heat nonstick cookware when empty. Once food has been removed, remove the pan from the heat. Overheating the cookware could release volatile elements from the nonstick surface into the air.
12-inch skillet: I use this pan more than any other single item in my batterie de cuisine.
12-inch straight-sided, lidded pan (5.3-quart/5-liter capacity): This saute pan is known as a sauteuse in traditional French cooking. I use mine quite often for braises and stews. It doubles as a casserole or Dutch oven and is very useful because of its nonstick surface.
10-inch skillet: I use this much less often than my 12-inch, but it's useful for cooking smaller amounts, and for making frittatas.
8-inch omelet pan: I use this pan to make small omelets, of course, but I also use it all the time for toasting nuts and cooking small amounts of garlic.
Casseroles and Dutch Ovens
Heavy 5-quart casserole: For beans, stews, ragouts, and soups. I like a heavy heatproof and ovenproof Dutch oven that can be used both on top of the stove and in the oven. The cookware that I have been using since I began to cook, and that I still swear by, is Le Creuset enameled cast iron. Every recipe in this book that calls for a large, heavy casserole or Dutch oven was made in my 5.3-quart (5-liter) round lidded casserole. These are expensive, but they will last more than a lifetime (I am also using some of my mother's enameled cast iron bought in the 1940s). They hold the heat beautifully and are attractive enough to double as serving dishes.
Earthenware casseroles: These are traditional in Spanish and North African cooking. Placed on a flame tamer, earthenware pots are wonderful for long, slow, gentle simmers. The next best thing is the enameled cast iron I discuss above.
Saucepans and Other Pots
Heavy nonaluminum saucepans: I use my heavy Le Creuset 2 1/2-quart, 2- quart, and 1-quart saucepans the most, for making rice and sauces. I am specifying nonaluminum here, because aluminum reacts with acidic foods like tomatoes and iron-rich foods like spinach, and changes their flavor.
Light saucepans: A set of light enameled, stainless, or nonstick, saucepans, inexpensive ones that you can find in a supermarket, is useful for steaming and blanching vegetables, and for boiling eggs.
8-quart (or larger) pasta pot: A pasta pot with a basket insert can be very useful. I use the pot as often to blanch vegetables as I do for cooking pasta. The pot can double as a stockpot.
Couscoussiere: This large double boiler, the traditional piece of equipment for making couscous, has small holes in the upper portion, which allows steam to reach the nuggets of semolina. You substitute with a colander or sieve (see How to Prepare Packaged Couscous, page 337).
2-quart and 3-quart gratin or rectangular baking dishes: I have both earthenware and Le Creuset, and use them interchangeably, both for savory baked dishes and desserts.
Lasagna pan: This is optional, but it's just the right size for making lasagnas with no-boil pasta. Mine measures 10 x 12 inches.
Tart pan and pie pan: I use both my 10 1/2-inch fluted white porcelain tart pan and my classic 10-inch metal tart pan with a removable bottom. I recommend that you have two, so that you can keep a frozen crust on hand in the freezer. I also use my 10-inch Pyrex pie pan.
Half-sheet pans (aka baking sheets, sheet trays): That's what standard 12 1/2 x 17 1/2-inch baking sheets with the 1/2-inch lip are called in the restaurant trade. Have at least two; you will use them all the time.
14-inch pizza pan: For pizzas and galettes. It also doubles as a cover for my 12-inch nonstick skillet.
9-inch or 10-inch springform pan: I use mine as often for savory pies as I do for cakes. There are now a number of excellent nonstick springform pans available.
Baking stone: A ceramic baking stone will radiate the heat in your oven, mimicking a bread stone or pizza oven. If you are a baker, you'll want one for country breads and pizzas. Terracotta tiles can be substituted.
Electric spice mill: It's worth investing in an extra coffee mill so that you can grind spices in seconds. Put a piece of tape on the top that says SPICES ONLY! And label your coffee mill with COFFEE ONLY! That way your spices won't end up smelling like coffee and vice versa.
Mini processor: This is a miniature food processor that I use all the time when I need more than one minced garlic clove or minced ginger. It's also great for pesto.
Food processor: Worth the investment for purees like hummus and baba gannouj. But don't use it for chopping; it massacres onions and doesn't chop evenly.
Electric mixer: An electric mixer isn't called for too often in this book, except for mixing up breads. If you bake a lot, it's worth your while to have a free-standing mixer like a KitchenAid.
Hand-held blender: This blender on a stick, also known as an immersion blender, is terrific for pureeing soups right in the pot.
Blender: When a silky texture is important, as with gazpacho, a blender works better than a food processor.
Ice cream maker: Even the simplest ice cream makers now seem to be powered by electricity. You will need one to make the sorbets and gelatos in the book.
Panini grill: These hinged, double-sided grills make a wonderful addition to your kitchen. Use them for grilling sandwiches and also for grilling vegetables like sliced eggplant and zucchini, and quartered bell peppers.
The Mediterranean Pantry
Each region of the Mediterranean has its own set of indispensable ingredients, many of them overlapping from one area to another. The story of the Mediterranean is a story of the rise and fall of empires and city- states, of trade between nations. Foods have traveled and taken root as different conquerors have come and gone. Long after the conquering peoples have retreated, foodways have remained.
OLIVES AND OLIVE OIL
The olive is the defining food of the entire Mediterranean basin. If there is one ingredient that runs through all of the cuisines, the olive is it. Foods of all kinds are cooked in and dressed with its oil; olives that are not destined for oil are cured and eaten everywhere, at breakfast (particularly in Turkey and the Middle East), lunch, and dinner.
When freshly picked, olives are incredibly bitter. In order for olives to be edible, the bitter com£ds must be leached out through a curing process. There are essentially three different ways to cure olives. The industrial olives produced in large quantities are usually cured in a lye solution, which is very fast but unfortunately also leaches out much of the olives' flavor. Water- and brine-curing is a slower, more natural method for curing olives. The fruit is soaked in vats of fresh water or saltwater brine, or in the case of kalamata olives, a red wine vinegar brine, for several weeks or months, until the bitter com£ds leach out. The liquid is changed regularly, and as the olives are cured, they are also seasoned.
Dry-cured olives are rubbed with salt and left to cure in the salt for several weeks or months. The salt draws out the moisture and with it the bitter com£ds. Then the salt is removed, and the olives are either coated with olive oil (as in North Africa) or aged in brine (as in Nice and Nyons). Dry-cured olives are intense, and those that are not brined have a wrinkled appearance and the texture of dried fruit. I find that oiled dry- cured olives can sometimes be too salty for my taste. My favorite olives, the ones I find most versatile, are those that have first been salted, then aged in brine.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Not only are the recipes outstanding but Shulman includes wonderfully helpful information of all kinds related to this type of cooking. She is straight forward and easy to follow! I've been following her NY Times column for years and now regret that I didn't get at least one of her books before. Do yourself a favor and look for it the next time you are in B+N.
This is an incredible resource! The recipes are fantastic, easy to make, and utilize fresh ingredients. It is one of my very favorite go-to cookbooks.
it is my favoorite go to cookbook ~ every recipe that I've tried has been excellent. I highly recommend it.