Pros: Totally enjoyable read; easy recipes, clearly written; well organized contents
Cons: Some ingredients (some) may be difficult for many folks to find in a local store - but are worth seeking out
Claudia Rodan is a culinary giant. Her books, Mediterranean Cookery and The Good Food of Italy - Region by Region are must-haves for anyone who loves elegant, yet down to earth cooking.
The New Book of Middle Eastern Food is an magnum opus, comprehensive, yet so simply presented that I believe a cook with no familiarity with the region or cuisines would set a splendid table on the first attempt. And there is something for everyone in its pages.
The dishes of the Middle East (from Turkey, through Syria, Lebanon and Jordan) and North Africa (Morocco to Egypt, along the coast), to the very elegant and refined cuisine of Iran (Persia) are enormously varied, country to country, yet they share common characteristics that should appeal to most cooks of every level of proficiency. They all are comprehensively covered in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.
Most cooking is done slowly; meats can be cooked to 'falling off the bone' perfection; a myriad of vegetables in countless permutations are prepared very cleanly, never overly cooked, quite often raw; flavors and aromas by the clever use of spices, perfumes, even woods, evoke a romantic sensuality unfamiliar to most of the rest of the world's cuisines.
This cookbook lays out in easily digestible (pardon me) detail the how and why of Middle Eastern food.
Ms Rodan is so perfectly organized that a vegan, a vegetarian, or an omnivore will have absolutely no difficulty finding scores of ideas for their kitchens. This is, contrary to taste and appearance, a deceptively simple cuisine, extremely well presented. The recipe organization is outstanding. Sure general cookbooks run from appetizers to desserts. Nothing new there. What is new is the placement of ongoing sidebars detailing explanations of spice blends and their uses, of anecdotes, and brief, often very humorous stories taken from Middle Eastern lore. With it's 19 page index of recipes, well, if it's not listed here, as they say, you probably don't need it. In this day and age, we all have friends and guests who are tied to specialized diets. You, my cooking friend, will find many, many wonderful and exciting recipes to thrill virtually any diner in the pages of Claudia Rodan's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.