mediterranean diet

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
 
 
 

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 2

 
Gifts and Treats for You and Yours
 
CITRUS FRUITS AND FRESH HERBS ARE BELOVED big-flavor ingredients in Mediterranean cooking. When I began making more Med dishes, I was struck by how many lemons I was buying—and zesting and squeezing and slicing. And I loved the new taste adventures with oranges—not eaten just as a fruit in hand, but sliced with tapenade, or zested and juiced for a citronette over grilled asparagus. Almost every Med recipe calls for one fresh herb or another—parsley by the fistful, or rosemary, thyme, mint, oregano in soups, salads, you name it. So here are a few gift ideas for making herb and citrus wrangling a snap for the Mediterranean cook in your life. 
 
COOL KITCHEN TOOLS
 
 
Citrus squeezer ($12). Comes in different sizes for limes, lemons and oranges, but all three might crowd a New York apartment drawer. You choose. 
 
 
 

Microplane Zester/grater 
($15). After years of struggling with multipurpose gadgets for zesting citrus fruits, using this is heaven. It takes just the zest and leaves behind the bitter white pith with hardly any effort on my part. (Can be used to grate cheese, too.)
 
 

 

Cuisipro Fresh Herb Keeper ($20). How many times have you bought a bunch of thyme or mint, used a bit, then had the rest end up lifeless by the time you need it again? Slots in the removable tray hold and hydrate stems while keeping the leaves dry; it can also be used to store asparagus.
 
 

MEDITERRANEAN HERB GARDEN
Herbs stay freshest, of course, when they’re actually living plants in the ground. I grow indoor pots of basil, thyme, rosemary and oregano in fits and starts. (They do require watering!) These are particularly pretty. Plus: a couple of gift ideas for New York City gardeners who actually have a patch of ground or outdoor terrace.
 
French Country Kitchen Garden ($22). Three pots, with organic soil, drip tray and seeds for parsley, marjoram and lemon basil.
 
 
 
 
 
 

($25). Three pots, with peat pellets, drip tray and seeds for basil, oregano and chives.
 
 
 
 
 
 
When I had a country garden, I loved Shepherd’s Garden Seeds because they sold such exotica (at the time) as Lolla Rossa lettuce and arugula. Renee Shepherd, its founder, now runs Renee’s Garden, where you can find a Container Herb Collectionseeds for Cameo basil, fine leaf chives, Slow Bolt cilantro, true Greek oregano and Gigante parsley, and Container Vegetable Collection—Super Bush tomato, Garden Babies lettuce, Gold Chard, Bush Slicer cucumber and  Pizza My Heart pepper. ($14 each)
 
 
For the outdoor gardener, go local with a Hudson Valley Seed Library gift membership ($20). Members grow seeds in their home gardens, enjoy their flowers and fruits, and then save seed at the end of the season to return to the library for credit toward their next year’s membership. I came across the beautiful Art Packs (not included in the $20 membership) at New Amsterdam Market, each seed pack beautifully illustrated by a different New York artist. You can still catch Hudson Valley Seed at the market Dec 19th. 
 
 
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday Gift Guide:
 
 

 

Meatless Monday: Do You Have Recipes to Contribute?

MEDITERRANEANISTA’S Shaved Fennel and Apple Salad is on this week’s menu at Meatless Monday. I’ve written before about this nonprofit public health campaign and the work it does. Go check out its recipe bank for all sorts of inspired ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even snacks. Do you have a recipe to contribute? Don’t be shy. 

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 1

 
Gifts and Treats for You and Yours
 
We’ve made some wonderful discoveries this year during our travels around New York City’s five boroughs and beyond, on the trail of one Mediterranean essential or another. So if you want to add a little Mediterranean flavor to your holiday, I have a few suggestions.
 
You can get many of these items online, but for some, alas, you’ll have to jump on the subway (or your bicycle) and head over to one of the amazing Mediterranean shops that dot New York. For me that time will be part of the pleasure: When I stop in at Eataly or Despaña, say, with my Christmas list, I plan to sit down and drink a coffee, order a few pintxos or a pizza or pasta and rest awhile until I’m ready for another whirl of Christmas preparations.
 
OLIVE OIL LOVE
This summer I visited Hester Street Market quite a few times, motivated to take the 7-mile bike ride from home because I knew Guerrilla Ice Cream would be waiting as a reward. One day, Mediterraneanista had an extra treat: I discovered SOM Extra-Virgin Olive OilAsena Basak was at the market giving tastes and selling the cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil her family produces on their farm in Milas, Turkey near the Aegean coast. It’s a delicious estate-bottled extra-virgin oil, made from Memecik olives grown by the family. The 2010 harvest will be available in April or May. (Follow SOM on Facebook.)
~Buy the SOM 2009-10 harvest at Garden of Eden stores or online
 
Back on the Upper West Side, I recently ran into the Franks (Castronovo and Falcinelli) at our local Whole Foods. The chef/owners of the Greenmarket-driven Frankies Spuntino restaurants are very friendly guys; they were there showing off their new cookbook, The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, and giving us tastes of their amazing olive oil cake, pretzels and other goodies. As if cookbook writing and running Frankies 457 in Brooklyn and Frankies 17 on the Lower East Side isn’t enough to keep them busy, the pair go to Sicily every year to oversee the production of Frankies Extra-Virgin Olive Oil— cold-pressed from organically grown Sicilian olives in the Nocellara del Belice DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin). They were expecting a shipment from the new harvest any day.
~Buy Frankies olive oil online or at these stores.
 
 
Mediterraneanista likes her olives any way she can get them. This Jardin de l’Olivier olive oil soap ($8.50) is nourishing for the skin—and what a beautiful objet, with its olive leaf shape, don’t you think? And the “Olive Tree” and “Mediterranean” tea towels ($21), made in France by Tissage Moutet, are almost too pretty to use. They’re woven in cotton by a fourth-generation business located in Orthez, a town in the foothills of the French Pyrénées.
~Buy tea towels and olive oil soap at QuelObjet.com.
 
 
 
 
 
AND SOME LAVENDER, TOO
 
 
Go to Union Square Greenmarket any Monday or Friday this month, and you’ll find sachets and dried bunches of lavender from Lavender by the Bay to make you think of summer and Provence. Or White Flower Farm has a lavender plant in a gray glazed pot ($42) that is hard to resist. 
 
 
GIVE THE COOK A NIGHT OFF
On Christmas Eve, Bistro de la Gare will celebrate with a traditional Italian “Night of the Seven Fishes” dinner as a prix fixe menu for $65 (tax, tip and wine not included). As of 12/10, tables are still open for some times between 5:30 and 10:30 that night.
~Make reservations at 212-242-4420.
I love the seasonal Mediterranean menus at this Greenwich Village restaurant. Here’s what chef/owners Maryann Terillo (formerly of Jarnac) and Elisa Sarno (formerly of Babbo) have in store for Christmas Eve:
La Notte dei Sette Pesci
Amuse: Baked Cherrystone Clams and PEI Mussel “Oreganata”
Antipasto: Baccala Three Ways—Fritelle di Baccala, Insalata di Baccala, Baccala Venizia
Salad: Shaved Fennel and Roasted Peppers with Bagna Cauda 
Pasta: Seppia Ink Fettucine with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat
garnished with Grilled Octopus
Secondi: Fritto Misto—Eel, Fresh Shrimp, Oysters, Calamari and Skate with 3 sauces: salsa verde, salsa rossa, maionese limone
Dessert: Bowls of Fresh Fruit and Nuts, Struffoli
 
Bistro de la Gare
626 Hudson Street (near Jane)
New York, NY
212-242-4420
 
 
Make life with holiday crowds easy: Cobble Hill restaurant Brucie has a lasagna drop-off service, we learn over at Tasting Table. Bring your pan in one day; pick up your meal-for-a-crowd the next evening on your way home. Great combos made with top-quality ingredients: eggplant, tomato and Swiss chard, goat cheese and mushrooms, roast pork and butternut squash.
 
Brucie
234 Court St.
Brooklyn, NY
347-987-4961
 

AN INSIDER LOOK AT EATALY
The giant Italian food hall that opened this summer at 23rd and Fifth offers classes at La Scuola di Eataly, which is headed up by Lidia Bastianich. Eat-Ineraries ($35) are one-hour small-group guided tours led by a senior staff member, with behind-the-scenes peeks at all the departments and tastings along the way. Chef’s Kitchen ($110–275) lets you join chefs like Esca’s Dave Pasternack, Manzo’s Michael Tosano, Del Posto’s Brooks Headley and Dean of La Scuola Lidia Bastianich for a demonstration and tasting (with wine pairings) as they prepare a signature dish. And there are classes with artisanal food purveyors like Pat LaFrieda and Eataly wine director Dan Amatuzzi. (See the Jan–Mar schedule here.)  

To give a particular class as a gift, register the recipient online for that class. Once the registration is complete with credit card approval, that space is reserved. If you like, you can then contact lascuola@eataly.com to obtain a certificate stating the class for which the gift recipient is registered.
 
Or you can buy an Eataly gift certificate, available only in the store, not yet online, but this doesn’t reserve a place in a class, and some sell out quickly (the classroom seats 22 for tastings, 20 for Chef’s Kitchen).
 
Eataly NYC
200 Fifth Avenue (enter on Fifth or 23rd)
New York, NY
212-229-2560
lascuola@eataly.com 
 
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday Gift Guide:
 
 

RECIPE: Shaved Fennel and Apple Salad


 
FENNEL MAKES ITS FALL APPEARANCE at the farmers’ market along with apples—a great tart/sweet flavor combo, especially when set off by a citrus dressing.
 
Variations: For the fresh herb, you can always substitute 2 tsp of chopped tarragon or mint for the parsley—experiment with your own favorite flavors. Asian pear (I learned this from my mom) works well in place of the apple. Or you can skip the apple, and instead, add segments of 1 red grapefruit and ¼ cup of pitted Niçoise olives. (I tried the olives with the apple combo but decided I preferred it without.)
 
This salad also makes a wonderful salsa to serve over simple grilled or roasted fish.
 
Serves 4
 
1 crisp, tart apple (Granny Smith, Cox’s Orange Pippin), peeled, quartered, cored, then sliced into matchsticks
1 fennel bulb, shaved on a mandoline or sliced thinly lengthwise (so the pieces form semi-circles)
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tbs olive oil
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp piment d’Espelette (a delicate crushed dried pepper from the Basque region of France)
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves or 2 tbs chopped fresh mint or 2 tbs chopped fresh tarragon
 
Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and piment d'Espelette in a small bowl. Combine the fennel and apple with the parsley or other fresh herb in a large bowl.  Add dressing. Toss gently to combine. 
 
Tip: Once you’ve cut the apple, you’ll want to go ahead and make and dress the salad right away, since the apple will turn brown if left too long. 

Meatless Monday Cure for Thanksgiving Feast Hangover

 
AFTER THE CORNUCOPIA OF COMFORT FOODS shared at the Thanksgiving table (and in the days that followed), I was in the mood today for something clean and crisp and refreshing. This Shaved Fennel and Apple Salad was the perfect answer. The tart apple and the fennel were fabulously crunchy, and the lemony dressing gave it a nice zing. You can substitute your favorite flavors into the salad. I used parsley today; next time I’ll try a couple of tablespoons of fresh tarragon or mint. And instead of apple, my mother uses Asian pear in her fennel salad—delicious indeed.
 
 
Fennel is popular in the traditional Mediterranean diet—particularly in Italy, but also in France and Greece. It’s full of nutrients—vitamin C, fiber, potassium, as well as various antioxidants and phytonutrients. The Florence fennel is what you’ll see in markets here, with a big white bulb, topped by long stalks and fronds, all of which can be eaten.
 
I think the first time I ate fennel was when my mother served her fennel and pear salad to us on one of my visits home. It’s not a dish she made when we were growing up; she’d learned it later on, from a friend during a long stay in Italy—making it her own by adding the Asian pears. Fennel is very versatile—eat it raw, as called for in the salad here, or steam, braise, grill or roast it (it caramelizes beautifully). Add it to soups and stews, serve over pasta or bake it with fish. This salad, in fact, works wonderfully served over grilled fish.
 
Wild fennel, a different plant, grows all around the Mediterranean; apparently it’s found on this continent in California, British Columbia and in other locales, too—perhaps where homesick Italians have planted the seeds. Once established, wild fennel is prolific. Wild fennel pollen, once known only in Tuscany, is prized by chefs like Mario Batali and Sara Jenkins (who uses it in her porchetta) for the flavor and aroma it brings to a dish.

At the Market This Week—Gathered from the Wild

INTERESTING ARTICLE IN YESTERDAY’S New York Times on chefs using unusual wild ingredients in their dishes. Nova Kim of Wild Gourmet Food (included in the article) was selling some beautiful mushrooms at New Amsterdam Market when I went last Sunday. 
 
 
 
Kim and her partner Les Hook are long-time gatherers of wild edibles from the fields and woods of northern Vermont—and spirited educators, whether at the Smithsonian or from behind their stand. “I’m so glad you used the word gather,” Kim exclaimed as we chatted about the mushrooms. “Foraging is about ravaging the woods. Gathering and wildcrafting is what we do.” (Whew, lucked out on that one.)
 
The pair have a wild food CSA (Judith Jones, Julia Child’s longtime editor, is a customer), and they supply chefs at the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) and high-end restaurants. If you like to gather wild edibles yourself or to cook with them or just think they’re a good thing to keep around, you might want to check out the nonprofit Wild Food Gatherers Guild, which Kim and Hook founded with NECI executive chef Tom Bivins—to “sustain the collection of wild foods as a craft and a livelihood.”
 
 
Wild Gourmet Food will be back at New Amsterdam Market December 19, the last day of this year’s schedule for the market. Maybe you’d like to visit them and make this Wild Mushroom Ragù.

Meatless Monday Gets Chefs to Dish for Thanksgiving

IF YOU’RE STILL LOOKING FOR IDEAS for the un-meat part of your Thanksgiving meal, Meatless Monday has invited its favorite chefs and cooks to share their favorite recipes. How about Mario Batali’s Sicilian rice balls, Martha Rose Shulman’s cranberry orange relish, or Dino Mash from Kim O’Donnel’s The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook? Check out all the recipes here. 

UN Adds Mediterranean Diet to Intangible Cultural Heritage List

 
THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET has been added to UNESCO’s representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, four years after Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco first petitioned for its inclusion. Here are excerpts from the UNESCO citation (emphasis added):
The Mediterranean diet constitutes a set of skills, knowledge, practices and traditions ranging from the landscape to the table, including the crops, harvesting, fishing, conservation, processing, preparation and, particularly, consumption of food. [It] is characterized by a nutritional model that has remained constant over time and space, consisting mainly of olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruits and vegetables, a moderate amount of fish, dairy and meat, many condiments and spices, all accompanied by wine or infusions.
 
However, the Mediterranean diet (from the Greek diaita, or way of life) encompasses more than just food. It promotes social interaction, since communal meals are the cornerstone of social customs and festive events.
 
The system is rooted in respect for the territory and biodiversity, and ensures the conservation and development of traditional activities and crafts linked to fishing and farming in the Mediterranean.
 
Women play a particularly vital role in the transmission of expertise, as well as knowledge of rituals, traditional celebrations and the safeguarding of techniques.
UNESCO started the list in 2003 because “cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects, but also includes traditions or living expressions” passed from generation to generation. Culinary arts were included as an element of cultural expression for the first time this year. (The gastronomic meal of the French and traditional Mexican cuisine have also been added.)
 
I browsed through the list of 166 practices and traditions—songs, dance, crafts, festivals, healing arts—and before I knew it I’d whiled away more than half an hour watching videos on Sardinian pastoral polyphonic singing, Azerbaijani carpet-weaving, falconry and Catalonian human towers. It gave me a little of the same feeling I get whenever I look up at the biodiversity wall at the American Museum of Natural History: awe at how many different weird and wonderful expressions life—and human culture—can take. And a reminder that they are worth safeguarding.
 
Here’s the promotional video for the Mediterranean diet entry (French only, but the visuals are the best part anyway).
 
 
 
Of course there’s been grumbling about criteria for the UNESCO list, how the choices are made, or even whether they should be made at all. Is honoring culinary heritage in this way a good idea? asks historian Rachel Laudan in her Soapbox piece over at Zester Daily, suggesting it may just be part of a “pervasive culinary nostalgia.” Provocative and interesting reading. Don’t miss the comments section; cookbook author Marcella Hazan has a few views of her own.

At the Market This Week

WHOLE GRAINS, FLOURS, BREAD—it’s Greenmarket Grains Week—cauliflower, winter greens, squash and…Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of the restaurants Savoy and Back Forty, doing a cooking demo Friday at Union Square.
 
 
 
 
 
On my way out the north end of Union Square Market this afternoon, I saw a cooking demo and stopped to see what was up. Lucky I did: Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of Savoy and Back Forty, was demonstrating how to make Spelt and Mushroom Soup with Sage and Sheep Cheese Crostini, especially for Grains Week.
 
 
By some miracle, it wasn’t super-crowded so we got to stand around and ask questions. Did you cook the spelt beforehand?—Yes, because it takes quite a while. What kind of mushrooms are they?—Today I’m using oyster mushrooms, from right over there at Madura Farms, he explains, pointing to a stand down the way.
 
Then there was the tasting, of course, and the soup was just right for outdoor eating on this brisk sunny day—warm broth full of flavor, chewy grain. Yum. In fact, everyone seemed to like it, even those for whom spelt was something new. A few reaaaaallly liked it. Or maybe they were just hungry. (One serving, please. No, sorry, we can’t give you a third helping.)
 
Most of the ingredients came from farmers’ stands just steps away—the spelt, celery root, greens, sage—which was the point, after all: For two decades, Hoffman has crafted Savoy’s menus around produce of the season from local farmers whom he’s gotten to know over the years. “Savoy is as close as you’ll get to Chez Panisse in New York City,” one reviewer wrote. Hoffman has been shopping at, cooking from and supporting the Greenmarket for 30 years—including 15 years on its advisory board. Nice to run into him there.
 
The soup recipe is part of the Greenmarket Recipe Series; you should be able to find it at the market. Peter Hoffman is reportedly working on a book that will recount a year of shopping at the farmers’ market, with recipes and reflections. Can’t wait to read it. Meanwhile, here’s a summer tour of the market with him, from WNYC:
 
 
Look for more cooking demos with various chefs on Saturday, November 20 at Union Square Greenmarket.
 
And to close out Grains Week, don’t miss the Flapjack Breakfast at New Amsterdam Market this Sunday, November 21, 11-1, tickets $20. Sausage and maple syrup are part of the deal!

 

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