Clifford Wright

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 3

SIX COOKBOOKS I ESPECIALLY LIKE
These are the books I find myself turning to again and again, despite all the temptations on bookstore shelves. Chefs and scholars, cooks and storytellers, the authors are the perfect guides for anyone setting out to explore the Mediterranean diet. Perhaps someone you know?
 
by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
My navigator and my anchor in all things Mediterranean. I like her common sense, her knowledge and perspective on the Mediterranean diet and her dishes. And she tells it all so beautifully.
 

by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox
OK, so I try not to cook out of this book every night, but it’s hard to resist because the dishes are exciting—and doable—and Jenkins, chef-owner of Porchetta and the just-opened Porsena, writes intelligently so you’re always learning—about cooking, ingredients, culinary traditions—as you go along.
 
by Martha Rose Shulman
This Martha’s recipes were my early inspiration for a new (for me) Mediterranean way of eating. Thank god they’re now in a book so I can throw out my stained computer printouts from her online column—and keep wowing my guests with the cooking.
 
by Clifford A. Wright
An 800-page intellectual and culinary feast, indeed. If you like the stories of history—and good recipes to boot, this is the book for you. Wright was inspired to do his culinary study, in part, by Fernand Braudel’s landmark history of the Mediterranean. Now Wright inspires us.
 
by Mario Batali and Mark Ladner
Despite the famous photo of Batali with a string of sausages around his neck, in this book he shares lots of easy-to-make dishes starring vegetables and grains. I’ve especially enjoyed the salads and vegetable antipasti. Not a vegetarian cookbook, by any means, but we hear that’s coming next.
 
by Claudia Roden
Born and raised in Cairo, Roden shares recipes for tagines, eggplant dishes, mezze—all informed by her deep background in Middle Eastern cooking (her 1972 A Book of Middle Eastern Food was a groundbreaker) and the stories she has to tell.
 
 
So many cookbooks, so little time—I know I have so much more to explore. Do you have a favorite cookbook full of recipes for a Mediterranean diet? (With inspired ideas for vegetables and fruits, grains and legumes, and, of course, a great love of olive oil.) Let us know in the comments box below. Here’s what I plan to dig into next. Maybe you already have?
 
Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking 

 
In case you need other gift ideas with a Mediterranean flavor:
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday List, Part 1
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday List, Part 2
 
 
 

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Emergency

 
A FRIEND CALLED TO SAY that house guests had come laden with farmstand fare this weekend, and the whole crowd had eaten lovely meals from it. Trouble is, not enough lovely meals, because now Monday was here and she still had a small boatload of eggplants sitting on her kitchen counter. What to do?
 
Well, in case any of you have had a similar culinary challenge (haven’t we all?), here are some ideas:
 
Think Turkish. Turks love eggplant and have dozens of different ways to cook it, many involving olive oil and tomatoes. One of the most famous dishes is imam bayildi, or the imam fainted, which is eggplant stuffed with tomatoes and onions. Clifford Wright, author of The Mediterranean Feast, gives the scoop on the name—and a recipe—here. Perfect for Meatless Monday. Or any other day for that matter.
 
Another famous Turkish eggplant dish is karniyarik, also a stuffed eggplant. I’ve made it quite a few times recently but I’ll go into that more another day because there’s too much to talk about already and besides, one of its ingredients is lamb.
 
So, back to Meatless Monday. As the eggplant rush gathered force at the end of the summer, I began making a dish with pomegranate, yogurt and tahini. I found the recipe one day when I was in the Rose Reading Room of the New York Public Library, browsing through some of the many cookbooks I don’t own. They have quite a collection, and what a splendid setting it is for transporting yourself to other places. The Lebanese eggplant recipe is from Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon, by Claudia Roden, an Egyptian-born cookbook writer who is credited with having revolutionized Western attitudes to Middle Eastern cooking with her classic, A Book of Middle Eastern Food, published in 1968. She’s a lively passionate writer, so I look forward to delving more deeply into all her books.
 

Today’s Meatless Monday treat at our house is this Algerian Eggplant Jam, from Joanne Weir’s From Tapas to Meze: Small Plates from the MediterraneanIt makes a delicious snack or appetizer on crostini (toasted baguette) or crusty bread.
 
Of course, one of Mediterraneanista’s enduring favorites when it comes to eggplant is ratatouille. I usually make a big pot, because there’s nothing tastier or easier for quick lunches or dinners, and you can always mix it up, so to speak, by serving it with grilled Italian sausage one day and couscous the next. Or you can try one of ratatouille’s many cousins, each with its own distinctive style.
 
Finally, you can never go wrong with Martha Rose Shulman’s suggestions in her Recipes for Health column at NYTimes.com. The recipes are conveniently organized by ingredient, and she often spends a week on different ways to prepare a single vegetable or grain. Here’s some of her eggplant repertoire to the rescue. 

RECIPE: Spicy Turkish-Style Yogurt Sauce (Açili Esme)

 
THIS SPICY YOGURT SAUCE is great over lentils, sautéed greens, beans, grains, fish or grilled meat. And it makes a delicious dip, too.
 
1 tsp sea salt
2-4 fresh garlic cloves, peeled
¾ cup high quality full-fat yogurt
6 tbs strained yogurt (Labna or Greek-style)
½ tsp cayenne pepper (I use a scant ½ tsp)
1 tsp chopped dill weed
extra-virgin olive oil
 
Pound the salt and garlic together in a mortar until mushy, or mince the garlic cloves in a press and then mix thoroughly with the salt.
 
Blend with the yogurt, labna, cayenne and dill. Turn it into a bowl and swirl olive oil over the surface.
 
Adapted from The Mediterranean Feast, by Clifford A. Wright. 

Running Late? This Sauce Could Save the Day

WHEN I SEE THE TWO NAMES Deborah Madison and Clifford Wright mentioned together, I sit up and pay attention. I still remember being swept off my feet by the first real gourmet vegetarian meal I’d ever eaten—it was at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, where Madison was founding chef. In the years since then, I’ve cooked some unforgettable dishes and meals from her cookbooks. (It will soon be the season for roasted squash, pear and ginger soup again!) Clifford Wright is a scholar of Mediterranean food and culinary history—and a wonderful writer (see his column at Zester Daily) and book author.
 
This afternoon, thanks to an article that caught my eye at food website Culinate, my plan for the day has been tossed aside and here I am suddenly making “Cliff Wright’s Yogurt Sauce”—at Deborah Madison’s suggestion.
 
 
I ate the yogurt sauce over lentils, because Madison’s description was irresistible:
I had gone to visit my friend, the cook and historian Clifford Wright, and I was ravenous when I got to his place. I knew I had to eat a little something, even though the hour was not an eating hour; it was 4 o’clock, and a wonderful dinner would be coming soon.
 
But Cliff, who is a world traveler, understood that travel takes its toll on appetites and their timing, so with no fuss at all, he served up a dish of lentils and set it down before me, along with a bowl of yogurt sauce.
 
I spooned the yogurt into the lentils, inhaled, then dove in. At that moment, those lentils and that yogurt were the most delicious foods I had ever eaten.
They were delicious in the middle of my workday, too, when all of a sudden it was afternoon and I hadn’t eaten lunch yet.
 
I’ll be making sure I have some of this sauce around (or at least the ingredients for making it) because I believe it when Madison says it works with everything: drizzle it on pita sandwiches, add it to a plate of beans or grains or sautéed greens or vegetables or grilled fish. Sounds perfect for when hungry Mediterraneanista is feeling lazy or has suddenly noticed it’s time for dinner. Oops, just saw the time—might be eating yogurt sauce twice today.
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