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Dec 6, 2009 07:37 PM

Medditeranian / Middle Eastern Cookbook?

Hello all,
I am looking for a Christmas gift for my wife and am asking for suggestions for cookbooks (don't worry, I will be the one doing the cooking). She likes a lot of Greek / Lebonese / Syrian / Egyptian food like moussaka, hummus, taboulli, and so on. I don't suppose I could find one cookbook that will cover all the regions, but at this stage I am just looking for ideas. A nice Turkish book could be nice too. Does anybody have any suggestions? Thanks!

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  1. I like both of these: A Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden, Lebanese Cuisine by Annisa Helou

    The Roden book has great recipes and also gives a lot of background about the foods. It is also pretty pan-Middle Eastern. The recipes are very good. The Helou book is strictly Lebanese, but also provides excellent recipes.

    5 Replies
    1. re: luckyfatima

      love Claudia Roden's books. "Arabesque" and "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food" are also great.

      1. re: luckyfatima

        Thank you! I do appreciate reading about the backgrounds.

        1. re: jao204

          Roden's are good but don't overlook Paula Wolfert's "Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean." A good book for greek/armenian/georgian/turkish/lebanese recipes. Very well-researched and some unusual, hard-to-find recipes.

        2. re: luckyfatima

          Another vote here for the Claudia Roden book. I've got the 1972 edition, and I love the descriptions and stories as well as many of the recipes. The Veal Sofrito in particular has been a long-time favorite. As fatima mentioned, it's quite regional, not limited to any one country's foods.

          1. re: luckyfatima

            I actually had a post on this same matter, and thanks to the board...I bought Claudia Roden's Book of Middle Eastern Food. It is great. Very informative on history as well. I was very pleased with my purchase.

            I recently bought an EXCELLENT Greek cookbook.

            Vefa's Kitchen. So amazing. I have even just made homemade pita which was great!


          2. You *will* find one cookbook that will cover all the regions and it's "Mediterranean, Food of the Sun" by Joanna Farrow and Jacqueline Clark.

            I recieved it as a gift several years ago and I've loved everything I've made from it. It's a big book, there are more than 150 recipes from all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean. Each dish is beautifully illustrated in color. The recipes are very easy to prep and cook and the results have been one wonderful dish after another.

            1. What about this:

              Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun.

              She jazzes up many traditional recipes in interesting ways.

              4 Replies
              1. re: bizkat

                Interesting. I like how she groups things by spice groups. It is always sad to have to buy $10+ worth of random spices for a certain meal and then having them sit in the cabinet unused for a 6+ months (this bugs my wife more than it bugs me, so maybe this will be the book for her!).

                1. re: bizkat

                  we did a COTM on this book. Personally I found the recipes rather disappointing and sometimes overly compliex but there are a lot of different views so check that thread- I think Wolfert and some of the more traditional regional books produce more satisfying food.

                  1. re: bizkat

                    I liked Spice when we did the COTM and have added a few of the recipes to my regular rotation. It's not as comprehensive as Roden or Wolfert, but has a few neat ideas. If you're looking for a definiteive resource, it sounds like Gio's recommendation would be more appropriate, but Spice might be a good secondary purchase.

                    1. re: bizkat

                      That's the one I was going to recommend as well. I've used it for several recipes; I like when I'm "in the mood" for za'atar, I can go and open up the cookbook and find recipes that have it as an ingredient.

                    2. Another vote for Roden.

                      Bearing in mind your mention of Turkish (and your wife's liking for Greek), I'd suggest "Arabesque" might be better than "Book of Middle Eastern Food" (which , in itself is very good).

                      If you can get hold of it where you are, an interesting "extra" might be "The taste of Cyprus" by Gilli Davies. Very much linked to seasonality, it draws on the Greek rather than Turkish culture of the country.

                      1. I strongly recommend Arabesque by Claudia Roden, and for Middle Eastern/Med food with a modern and creative twist I am a huge fan of The Ottolenghi Cookbook. To be honest, I can't praise the latter highly enough - it's wonderful, and a lot of people on here agree.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: greedygirl

                          And if you want lots of impressions of these two books, they were both Cookbooks of the Month.

                          Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon :

                          Ottolenghi: The Cookbook:

                          I am a big fan of both, but for an all-around Middle Eastern cookbook, my first recommendation is Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            I agree with you about Ottolenghi...I was going to say I didn't, but there's just too much evidence.

                            I do, however, like Paula Wolfert's books better than Roden's. I love Roden, too, but I love the way Wolfert actually goes into small villages and stays with the people and seeks out recipes by word of mouth. It's very interesting and her recipes are almost always amazing. She writes a lot about the people and the traditions and variations of dishes.

                            Don't get me wrong, I do love Roden, but Wolfert is the queen.