Cookbooks

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen – Introduction

Paula Wolfert was a giant among food writers. She had an outstanding ability to identify food regions that would appeal to home cooks even if they were obscure and to research the foods of that region in minute detail.

She also had the ability to connect with home cooks from diverse cultures and to coax them into working with her to learn about recipe techniques and the best produce required to replicate a dish.

Some of her best books were the result of her focussing on a specific region. Her book “Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco” published in 1973 was a trailblazing tome that brought the food of this fascinating country to the fore in the United States and beyond.

Also, her detailed book on the food of South-West France in 1983 called “The Cooking of South-West France” was one of the first to elevate this shy region to the status it deserves for the amazing variety of dishes produced in the area. It includes some fascinating information about one of our favourite dishes, namely cassoulet, which we always seek out when venturing into this region.

But, the more she explored individual regions, the more she was drawn east to countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Syria, Georgia and Armenia the more she was attracted to the food and culture in that region.

By this time, she had covered most of the Mediterranean seaboard and was therefore ready to kick off a series of books about the entire region. She ended up writing a number of books about the entire Mediterranean seaboard and therefore we have chosen one about slow cooking to represent her work in this list.

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen – Detail

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert entreats us to take more time in preparing for and cooking our foods.

“I take pleasure in preparing food from scratch. There’s just something about slow cooked food – meats turning tender and succulent, , fruits and vegetables flavorful and satiny – that appeals to me. In this frantic cyber-age, when everything happens so fast and events occur at blinding speeds, the slow approach to food preparation helps me to ground myself. Not only does such food taste delicvious, it is also relaxing and pleasurable to make.”

The The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen is divided into chapters which cover the following topics:

  • Appetizers
  • Mediterranean Salads and Cold Vegetable Dishes
  • Hot and Cold Soups
  • Seafood
  • Chicken, Duck and Game Birds
  • Meats
  • Vegetables
  • Desserts
  • The Mediterranean Larder

Within each chapter the recipes are from countries ranging from Morocco round to Greece and on to France and Spain.

As usual with her books, this one has well-crafted recipes that are precise and easy to follow. A welcome relief among all those ‘quick and easy’ recipe books that are cluttering the shelves of the bookstores.

The range of recipes is impressive. We were pleased to see a recipe for Cassoulet from South-West France that has over two pages of explanation of the technique. We have eaten this dish many times in France. The recipes vary from one village to another and on city such as Toulouse to Carcassonne to Castelnaudary. She even finds a chef in Auch (which is about 80 kilometres west of Toulouse) who cooks three versions of the recipe, one using Tarbais beans (which is our preference), one using lentils and one using chick peas.

As an aside, while this dish is commonly confined by authors to the South-West, there is a Provencal dish with a long history in the village of Caromb (just north of Carpentras) called Tian de Fayots which is almost identical to Cassoulet.

We were delighted to see a recipe for a dip called Bissara from Morocco made from large dried broad beans. This can be made as a dip or a soup. We were lucky enough a few years ago to pay a visit to Fes in Morocco and a Bissara soup is dish that we still crave as a result of that visit. A friend took us to a small stall with about four seats amd we had this most unctuous soup topped with spices and a splash of excellent olive oil. It was asbsolutely delicious!

Slow Mediterranean Kitchen
Bisarra stall in Fes

Some of the salad dishes from the Middle East are particularly attractive. For example a recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes with Skordalia sauce which seems perfect for our climate change induced hot summers.

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen is definitely a great book with lots of engaging commentary.

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen is included in our Foodtourist Top Fifty Cookbooks.

Read more about Paula Wolfert in this review of Emily Thelin’s book about Paula called Unforgettable.

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