Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon

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By Claudia Roden (Knopf, 2005)

Few culinary traditions marry modern nutritional wisdom with delicious, sensual flavors as elegantly as Mediterranean cooking. In this richly written, deeply inspired cookbook, celebrated food writer Claudia Roden covers the cuisines of three key players in its culture: Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. Dishes commonly feature many of today’s nutrient heroes — complete grains, plain whole-milk yogurt and cheese, olive oil, nuts, and lemons — that have been historically deployed for health and pleasure. They also rely heavily on aromatics (potent anti-inflammatory spices like ginger and saffron), while meat functions as a seasoning rather than a central player. Vegetables figure in every dish except dessert.

Mouthwatering starters include walnut pomegranate salad and chicken- onion pie; main courses feature cod steaks with tomato, ginger and black olive sauce, or roasted lamb shoulder with couscous and dates. Simple milk puddings with rosewater and stuffed dates with almond paste are among the tempting — but not overwhelming — sweets. With a brief overview of each country’s culinary history alongside a profile of central dishes, food traditions, key spices, breads and beverages, this is a gorgeous guide for anyone seeking to bring healthy pleasure back to the table.

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