The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
It has been so long since I perused a new cookbook – who has time for that! But I’ll admit that this book on Mediterranean cuisine seduced my interest, largely in part because I really love olives. Don’t they look delicious. There is an intro on how great the Mediterranean diet is for you (in a word: very), but it is chock-full of interesting recipes I’m now itching to try out. The fact that it’s heart-healthy, and includes daily wine, only makes it even better.
The recipes themselves are a little more difficult than what I’m used to. The diet, it seems, called for top-quality natural foods, often prepared old-fashionedly. Which is cool, I’d like to pick up my culinary game, and whatever I can’t get to right now (like the hand-ground spices), I’ll supplement with the crappy store-bought product of the masses. That’s the plan, anyway.
One thing to note – I originally got the book out of the library, then downloaded it to my ereader when I liked the book. I’ve never had a cookbook on a reader before. My thought was the cookbook had no photos, therefore I wouldn’t be missing anything. One thing I am missing, however, is the ability to peruse the cookbook easily – flipping idly through pages until an enticing recipe flashes by, or drifting through the index to see what I could make with the sweet potatoes lingering in my fridge, say. But I’ll give the electronic version a go. One positive is it forces me to be more thorough as I go through the recipes – potentially revealing perfect recipes I would have otherwise passed by.
Here is my first attempt at a recipe out of the book: Risotto ai Frutti di Mare, or Seafood Risotto. I’ll put in the version of the recipe that I did.
1 pound medium-large shrimp (25-30)
5 cups chicken stock
2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
a pinch of cayenne pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shrimp should be peeled and, if large, cut into smaller pieces and set aside.
Bring chicken stock to s slow simmer and keep it simmering very gently while you prepare the risotto.
In a heavy kettle or saucepan large enough to hold all the cooked rice, warm the oil over medium heat and, when it is shimmering, add the shrimp. Stir the shrimp in the hot oil about 7-10 minutes, until it has lost its raw translucence but not thoroughly cooked. Stir in the cayenne pepper, remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon, leaving the aromatic oil behind in the pan, and set aside.
Lower the heat and stir the garlic, onion, celery and carrot into the pan. This combination of vegetables, incidentally, is a mirepoix and is the base to many Mediterranean soups and dishes. While I hate celery, for the sake of fine dining I’ll allow it. Stir the vegetables until they are soft but not brown – about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the rice and mix until the rice is thoroughly coated with the aromatic oil.
Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed most of it, about 5 minutes.
As soon as the wine is absorbed, start adding the simmering stock. Add a little at a time, ladle by ladle, stirring constantly and not adding more until the previous addition has been mostly absorbed. There should always be liquid visible in the pan.
After the first 20 minutes of cooking, stir in the reserved shrimp. The rice is done when it is al dente, with a bit of a bite in the centre. Each grain should be well coated with the sauce and the dish should be thick enough to eat with a fork. Total cooking time approx. 25-30 minutes.
And there you go! A beautiful dish that is not only delicious, but healthy as well.
Word of the day:
Erudition: knowledge acquired by study, research; learning; scholarship.