The Essential Mediterranean by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
How Regional Cooks Transform Key Ingredients into the World's Favorite Cuisines

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With The Essential Mediterranean, Nancy Harmon Jenkins continues her lifelong exploration of Mediterranean food -- how it is grown, prepared, and shared around the table. In her latest book, Ms. Jenkins introduces cooks and readers to a cluster of core ingredients and foodways that are fundamental to all of the Mediterranean's diverse cuisines. She shows how the Mediterranean attitude toward food -- a combination of respect, integrity, enthusiasm, and sheer joy -- can be cultivated across the Atlantic.

In twelve informative and captivating chapters, the author focuses on the core ingredients common to the diverse cuisines of the region: salt, wine and vinegar, pasta and couscous, bread, olive oil, Old World legumes, New World peppers and tomatoes, dairy products, the family pig, and the resources of the sea. In each chapter she travels to a different corner of the Inner Sea to describe how and why these essential ingredients are obtained, what determines their quality, and where they fit in local cuisines.

Each chapter draws on history and ethnography as much as on the lives of Mediterranean people today. Readers will delight in Majid Mahjoub, the colorful Tunisian "Shakespeare of olive oil," and commiserate with Provencal cheese maker Yves van Weddingen as he struggles to maintain his standards in the face of bureaucratic demands. Home cooks will garner a new appreciation of high-quality Spanish jamon de bellota as they follow the Trigo family through the annual winter ritual of transforming the family pig into hams and sausages.

More than 170 contemporary, accessible recipes, simple to reproduce at home, bring the foods and the regions alive, while additional chapters include basic procedures and staples, as well as a helpful guide to ingredient sources.

The Essential Mediterranean gets to the heart of this world, celebrating its diverse food cultures and the shared ingredients that are the essence of these remarkable cuisines.


About Nancy Harmon Jenkins

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Hailed as "an anthropologist of the human soul as revealed through food" (, Nancy Harmon Jenkins has written frequently about Mediterranean cuisine (The Essential Mediterranean, Flavors of Tuscany, Flavors of Puglia, The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook). She also writes for national publications, including the New York Times and Food & Wine, and she works closely with the Culinary Institute of America, leading tours to Italy and Spain for the CIA's Worlds of Flavor program.
Published March 18, 2003 by William Morrow Cookbooks. 448 pages
Genres: Cooking. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Essential Mediterranean

Publishers Weekly

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Books on Mediterranean food are common, but this one is uncommonly good. Jenkins's writing experience stands her in good stead in this innovative exploration of this sunny region. Chapters are

Dec 02 2002 | Read Full Review of The Essential Mediterranean: ...

Publishers Weekly

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While almost every recipe in the world calls for salt, Jenkins does a good job featuring those in which salt or salt-preserved ingredients are key: Salt-Baked Fish and Moroccan Chicken with Black Olives and Salted Lemons.

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