More than ten years ago when I was a sophomore in college, I studied abroad in Spain. It was probably one of the best and one of the hardest years of my life - having lived in the United States my whole life, it was a cultural shock to be immersed in all things Spanish. The intensity of having to live, breathe and eat Spain was overwhelming, but at the same time exhilarating. It was also one of the most interesting culinary experiences of my life.
Once I left Spain I realized how much I missed its food. It was there that I learned to use olive oil on bread instead of mayonnaise, and how delicious a simple mixture of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and salt was to spread on rustic bread. Vegetable paella would never taste the same anywhere else, and I finally knew that I could use chocolate (or rather, hazelnut spread) like peanut butter.
Several years after I returned I came across what is now one of my favorite cookbooks of all time - The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. Finally - a cookbook that I could use to recreate the same style of dishes I had in Europe!
This cookbook is divided up in typical sections: Appetizers; Soups; Salads; Pasta, Rice and Other Grains; Vegetables and Legumes; Breads; Desserts; and Meals in Minutes. There is also a Metric Conversion Chart at the end, as well as an Index of all the recipes.
Each section contains dishes that could be found all along the Mediterranean, so there are dishes that are influenced not just by Spain, but by Italy, Greece and France, etc. as well.
Most recipes are called by names that may not be so familiar to the average American, but with a descriptive introduction to every recipe, it's easy to figure out what the recipe is all about.
Each recipe is pretty straightforward and easy in concept, but not every recipe is easy or quick to make, which is one reason why I am rating this a four instead of a five. When I first got into experimenting with cooking, I confess that many of these recipes seemed out of my league. For one thing, I couldn't afford to make some of the dishes, and for another I just didn't feel like I had the right skill set. These days, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on cooking so it's not so intimidating. BUT (there's that pesky "but" again), quite a few of these recipes do still require some solid time in the kitchen. That said, there are still a few recipes that are appropriate for those who are new to cooking or for those who are crunched for time.
The recipes are also pretty true to the Mediterranean diet - they are simple, rustic recipes that rely on ingredients like fresh produce, spices and herbs, and olive oil. Each is also prepared in a similar style to how it would be prepared in Europe. The results are aways reminiscent of what one might have eaten if they had spent any length of time along the Mediterranean.
This is probably another one of the reasons why I am rating this a four. While most ingredients are commonly found in a regular grocery store, some ingredients are going to be hard to find or just near impossible to get. Many ingredients may also be expensive for people on a budget, so it will be challenging to make a recipe exactly as it's written (one salad calls for 8 ounces of fresh mixed wild mushrooms like porcini, girolles and chanterelles - these are typically much more expensive than the standard white button mushrooms found in most grocery stores in the United States).
Still, with some savvy substitutions, even the most novice cook can create a great dish based upon the recipes in this cookbook.
Don't let the negatives I've mentioned stop you from checking out The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, because overall I dearly love this cookbook. One of my favorite pasta dishes - and a very simple recipe to make - "Enraged" Penne was introduced to me in this cookbook. Check out the variation of it I made a few months ago, called Enraged Rigatoni. I also have had success with the focaccia bread (divine), Plum Tart in Phyllo (a little bit of an effort, but very delicious), and the Rice Pilaf with Currants, Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts (sweet and savory).
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About the reviewer
My name is Samantha andIwrite www.NovelEats.com, a vegan food blog where I post recipes, how-to articles and advice for people who are considering incorporating vegan food into their diets. Ialso pride … more
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When scientists began to make the connection between diet and disease, there was one region that stood out as a stronghold of healthful eating: the Mediterranean. After years of research, an international conference backed the Mediterranean diet as the best one for overall good health - and the exciting news was that it tasted great, too.
Now you can take the tour yourself, with this unique Mediterranean vegan cookbook - also ideal for vegetarians, those with a lactose intolerance, and anyone who wants to make gloriously delicious dishes without meat, eggs, or dairy. With no need for tofu, soymilk, or other substitutes, you can create...
Meze, Tapas, Antipasti, Hors d'Oeuvres: Luscious in any language - snacks and starters from Sicilian Eggplant Relish to Catalan Grilled Vegetables with Almond Sauce
Soups and Stews from Moroccan Carrot to Gazpacho to Classic Italian Minestrone
Salads from Moroccan Fresh Tomato to Tunisian Beet with Harissa
Black Olive Bread, Panini, Pizza Alla Marinara, Classic Focaccia
Spring Vegetable Risotto, Zucchini-Lemon Couscous, Green Rice
Dairy-Free Desserts from Greek Currant Cake to Braised Pears in Red Wine and more
Let the Mediterranean sun into your kitchen - and enjoy! ...