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Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking: Traditional and Modern Recipes to Savor and Share: My Life in the Mediterranean Kitchen Hardcover – 2 Oct 2009
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Starred Review Beginning with a simple premise—"Food tastes better cooked in clay"—this single–themed cookbook is an illuminating treatise on a technique that′s used throughout the Mediterranean but is still relatively obscure in U.S. kitchens. James Beard Award–winner Wolfert ( The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen ; The Cooking of Southwest France ), who has studied and written about the region′s cuisine for decades, has become passionate about earthenware pots. Wolfert claims that all food cooked in unglazed vessels has an earthy sweetness, and that when the vessel is dedicated to a certain food, its porous surface gains a seasoning or “memory” that enhances the flavor. Because these same characteristics make clay pots tricky to care for, Wolfert provides tips for cleaning and safety as well as plenty of sources for more information. What these dishes have in common is that they can be prepared, baked and brought to the table in their respective dishes—be it in the Spanish cazeula (orange–glazed pork belly), the Moroccan tagine (fish tagine with tomatoes, olives and preserved lemon) or the Turkish guvec (summer lamb and vegetable guvec). Wolfert is a true cook′s author, and as her use of obscure ingredients (dried eggplant, sweet and sour plums, argan oil) and colorful anecdotes/additional ideas (say, grilling over a flowerpot) illustrate, this book is not for the casual home cook. But for those willing to tackle them, Wolfert′s clay pot dishes do indeed merit the hype. Photos. (Oct.) Starred Review ( Publishers Weekly , September 7, 2009)
From the Inside Flap
Cooking/Regional & Ethnic/Mediterranean Before she even knew what they were used forand long before the Los Angeles Times named her "America′s queen of Mediterranean cooking"Paula Wolfert started to collect clay cooking pots. After decades of picking up pots and companion recipes wherever she traveled, Wolfert now owns ceramic vessels in all shapes and sizes: cazuelas, tagines, bean pots, Romertopf baking dishes, French diables, ordinary casseroles, even Crock–pots (which have a ceramic liner). It just makes sense: For thousands of years, earthenware has been the preferred cooking method for many Mediterranean dishes. In Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, Wolfert shares recipes as vibrant as the Mediterranean itself, along with the delightful stories behind the earthy pots, irresistible dishes, and outstanding cooks she has met along the way. And don′t worry if your collection doesn′t match Wolfert′s; for each recipe, she suggests alternative equipment. With her inimitable passion for detail, Wolfert demystifies the process of clay pot cooking, in which fresh ingredients are transformed slowly, richly, lusciously into magnificent meals. She offers 150 recipes both classic and contemporary, all of which offer extraordinary depth of flavor. They include: First Courses: Roman Artichokes Braised with Garlic and Mint, Clay PotRoasted Eggplantwith Cheese, and Greek Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta Cheese Soups: Piedmontese Bean Soup with Spareribs and Pumpkin Soup with Creamy Roquefort Fish and Shellfish: Moroccan Fish Tagine with Tomatoes, Olives, and Preserved Lemons; Sicilian Fresh Sardines Stuffed with Pine Nuts and Raisins; and Poached Swordfish in the Style of Izmir Chicken, Duck, and Other Poultry: Chicken Thighs Roasted on a Bed of Salt in the Style of the French Alps, Moroccan Chicken Kdra with Almonds and Chickpeas, and Cazuela Quail with Red Peppers and Pine Nut Picada Meats: Slow–Roasted Glazed Lamb Shoulder with Spring Vegetables, Stifado with Beef and Caramelized Onions, and Pork Tiella with Wild Mushrooms and Potatoes Pasta and Grains: Bulgur and Greens with Pistachios and Yogurt; Fideos with Clams, Shrimp, and Mussels; and Oven Polenta in a Clay Pot Vegetables: Compote of Fennel with Onion, Pancetta, and Currants; Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic; and Roasted Late Summer Vegetables from the Island of Corfu Plus you′ll find savory pies and breads, glorious egg and dairy recipes, and stunning desserts. Whether you′ve got a single ceramic baking dish or a complete arsenal at your disposal, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking will transform the way you cook, and the way you eat.See all Product description
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Now the warning: you may end up with a house full of a new class of toys. So far I've accumulated a Chinese sandpot (which I cracked making a Wolfert recipe and successfully repaired using Paula's instructions), four different tagines, an Emile Henry Flame Top dutch oven, two Roemertopf's, a Japanese donabe, a Spanish Cazuela, and a Baeckeoffe oval tureen from Alsace. Regrettably, I'm not done yet. I still want to get some Black Chamba Clay Cookware and perhaps a daubière... unless my wife puts me out of my misery first.
I've made numerous recipes from the book by now: Moroccan Fish Tagine with Tomatoes, Olives, and Preserved Lemons (for which I bought an inexpensive Rifi Tagra), Fried Spatchcocked Chicken (made in an Italian mattone), Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Sweet Onions and Raisins, Baked Moroccan Chicken with Charred Tomatoes, Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Winter Squash and Toasted Pine Nuts, etc. , etc. They were fun to make and tasted wonderful. Some recipes are easy to make and some require patience and dedication. There's a thread on eGullet that deals with cooking from this book. Its title is Cooking with Paula Wolfert's "Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking" You'll find some pictures, experiences, and hints on this thread, should you need help. Paula contributes here as well.
I'm still happy with this book and I'm cooking at least one new recipe from it per week. My two recent favorites were "Chicken with Red Wine Vinegar, Tomato, and Shallots" and "White Beans with Tomatoes and Sage." The latter required making the beans before, according to another recipe: "Tuscan White Beans with Sage and Garlic." The beans were just terrific with the tomatoes and sage. It was an instant favorite for us while it was also one of the easiest recipes to make. I used my Chamba bean pot for this dish. (It's winter now in Colorado and it feels nice to put one's cold hands on the warm lid of the Chamba while inhaling the wonderful aromas escaping from the pot.) I'm completely sold on cooking in clay, thanks to Ms. Wolfert. Her book serves as an instruction manual on how to utilize the various clay pots available by providing the recipes that are best made in these pots. Months after I bought the book, I still have clay pots coming in on a regular basis--not that I *must* have them, but because I'm hooked. (Paula says in her book that 75% of the recipes can be made in just six different pots.) I'm also a fan of Ms. Wolfert's style of presenting information, which is not at all dry. As of today, I own all of her books.