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Mediterranean cookbook recommendation for the home cook + help stocking the pantry!

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I love mediterranean food and would love to learn how to cook it at home (for some reason, restaurants that serve mediterranean food seem to be on the pricier range!). I would appreciate it if you can recommend mediterranean cookbooks that is not overly complicated and with ingredients that can be easily found in the american kitchen (i.e. not too many lamb dishes, while i LOVE lamb, it's often pricier and harder to find). I have seen Wolfert's mediterranean slow cooking used as one of the COTM in 2008, but would love a more all encompassing cookbook -- maybe wolfert is a great start, if so, which cookbook? Recommendation for websites with proven mediterranean recipes would also be appreciated!

I am not very familiar with the term "mediterranean cuisine" or what the differences are between the regions, but if I have to pick the ones that I have tried and enjoy, it would be Greek or Spanish style.

I primarily cook asian (chinese/korean/SE Asian) food at home, so I desperately need help in stocking my pantry with the basic for mediterranean cooking as well (for example - olive oil; would also appreciate recommendation on where or which brand to get - i know there are plenty of threads on this). I am completely lost on how to start learning and how to do it in an affordable way. I am just a little bit overwhelmed since mediterranean food seems to be all about fresh ingredients.

Thank you for your help!

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  1. It's such a wide topic. You're talking about something around 20 countries border the Med all with a diverse cuisine. If you want advice, then stop thinking about a single "Mediterranean cuisine" - it doesnt exist. Focus down on on the Greek and Spanish that you've found you enjoy - and very diverse they are being so far apart - they are not interchangeable in ingredients.

    And, even with say Spain, you have a diversity in the cuisine as many of it's well known dishes do not come from the provinces that border the Med but are either inland or more northern or western.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      Hi Harters,

      Thanks for the comment! I know what a wide topic this is (thus my addition of 2nd paragraph). I'm just a little overwhelmed because if you look at it from someone who has no background in cooking the mediterranean food and someone who doesn't even have a lot of experience cooking - it's very hard to narrow it down or even to pick a starting point. I feel that I don't even know what the differences are and quick google search only overwhelms me. But taking your comment into consideration, do you have any recommendation for a greek cookbook that's easy to follow or a website, or tips on stocking the pantry?

      1. re: chocomel

        'Fraid not. I've never been to Greece (well, apart from one day) and don't really cook specifically Greek food. The nearest I can get for you is Cyprus - which obviously has a strong Greek elements in its cuisine. My favourite book from that country is "The Taste of Cyprus" by Gilli Davies.

        For Spain, I'd suggest a good starter book is "Cooking in Spain" by Janet Mendel. I bought my copy in, I think, Andalucia but you should be able to find it in America as I think she is American.

        We always try to bring home a cookbook as a souvenir of wherever we travel to. Not all get used but these to do.

        I'd suggest getting these (or whatever takes your fancy when other folk have recommended their choices to you). You'll quickly see what you want to cook first and, thereby, know what you need for the pantry.

    2. Susanna Hoffman's "The Olive and the Caper" is a very accessible Greek cookbook, chocomel, so it might be a place to start.

      1. I still swear by an oldie but goodie, Paula Wolfert's "Mediterranean Cooking." Her book on cous cous is also a keeper.

        1. There a some good general Mediterranean cookboobks published:
          Mediterranean Kitchen by Joyce Goldstein
          A good variety of recipes; clearly written instructions; ingredients are easily available; no
          photographs or drawings.
          Mediterranean the Beautiful by Joyce Goldstein
          Coffee table book with lots of well written recipes; more complete than the above as Southern
          France and Spain are given more space. Some Photographs of finished dishes.
          The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook by Tess Malo
          Big book with tons of recipes covering just about all the Mediterranean countries. Instructions
          good though brief.
          The Essential Mediterranean by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
          More recent than the those above. The tone of the book is somewhat dry but recipes are
          good. Focus more on the European Mediterranean
          If you are interested in background text rather than lots of recipes, The Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright is good ready.
          Books by Paula Wolfert are good but I find her a bit rigid and for somewhat who is just starting, it can be overly detailed.
          Some of the above may be out of print but one can usually find a sales copy online.
          I would also check your library for them as well as others.
          Lamb is popular meat in most Mediterranean countries. In many recipes, especially those call for slow braising and ground, one can substitute beef for lamb. For slow braising, one might have to cook it a little longer. I would not go out and buy lots of stuff. Start with a few simple recipes and buy what you need. Many cookbooks will have a section on ingredients.

          1. Not certain about cookbooks, since I honestly rarely use them, but I can offer a good suggestion for getting lamb. I've found that Halal butchers and markets tend to have superb lamb, as well as lots of cuts and offal you'd never find at general supermarkets, for amazingly affordable prices.

            Also, check in the funky meats section of your meat section to see if they have the lovely cheap cuts like necks or mutton stew meat. It may not have the presentation pow of lamb chops, but the much lower price will allow you to play with that delicious gamey flavor much more often.

            1. Join the September Cookbook of the Month Thread; you'll find lots of info there. (The cuisines of the Med are mostly frugal.)

              1. Thank you so much for all sugestions. I have checked out Joyce Goldstein's Mediterranean Kitchen from the library and also read the COTM thread. I will be on my way to cooking some yummy food.

                1. Another person to check out is Martha Rose Shulman. I love her recipes. She favours light and flavourful Mediterranean recipes with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fresh ingredients. She has a regular column in the New York Times called "Recipes for Health." http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/he...
                  She has also written a whole host of cookbooks, including "Mediterranean Light", "Provencal Light", and "Mediterranean Harvest."
                  You can find some of her recipes on her website:
                  http://www.martha-rose-shulman.com/ar...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: toveggiegirl

                    Checking these pages out right now. Thank you so much!

                  2. My favourite Mediterranean cookbooks include:

                    The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen - gosh, I want to make everything in here! pantry items seems to be sherry vinegar, olives, capers, etc
                    The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert - they are mostly simple, healthy recipes
                    The Food and Cooking of Turkey by Ghillie Basan - tantalizing photos to go with the delicious recipes

                    Here are two knock out Spanish dishes I have made recently:
                    http://tastespace.wordpress.com/2010/...
                    http://tastespace.wordpress.com/2010/...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: blinknoodle

                      Wow, I love the pictures on your blog. Beautiful - really makes me want to try these recipes. Also i cannot wait to take a look at Ghillie Basan's book, i love books with photos when i'm not too familiar with the food!