These are the last two cookbooks I’ve purchased. I see a theme or two. Firstly, spices – seasonings and flavorings including herbs and flowers and you name it. Secondly – dishes from the Mediterranean.
In my early years of cooking, I thought that Mediterranean cuisines covered mostly the coastal areas of France and Italy, plus a bit of Spain and Greece. I wasn’t wrong, but how fun and exciting has my journey been to discover the actual expanse of these sea- and sun-kissed countries’ cuisines.
I decided to google what really is Mediterranean cuisine, not to be confused with the Mediterranean diet. From Wikipedia: “The idea of a Mediterranean cuisine originates with the cookery writer Elizabeth David’s book, A Book of Mediterranean Food (1950) and was amplified by other writers working in English.”
Here is a fabulous map that shows the entire Mediterranean “basin” that includes far more countries than the four I mentioned.
The groupings of cuisines are shown on this map.
Maghrebi cuisines include Algeria, Libyan, Morocco’s and Tunisian cuisines. Levantine includes the Mediterranean coast east of Egypt. Ottoman includes Turkey, parts of the Balkans, Cyprus, and Greece. The Balkans include cuisines from Albania, Armenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Slovenia. Spanish, French and Italy speak for themselves. Portuguese is considered only slightly Mediterranean since it borders the Atlantic. And I love them all!
In any case, I’m having so much fun with my new cookbook Spice, by Chef Ana Sortun, published in 2006. Chef Sortun is best known as the chef-owner of Oleana, in Boston. So far I’ve made quite a few recipes and loved them all.
This is the author’s luxurious version of a pilav, considered “a special occasion or fancy pilav because it is packed with nuts and berries and is enriched by the hazelnut aroma of brown butter. The addition of crushed toasted pasta is a typical addition to easter Mediterranean pilavs.”
Bulgur with Pine Nuts, Almonds, Pistachios, and Mulberries
1 1/2 cups coarse bulgur
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 coils or nests of De Cecco brand angel hair pasta, crushed in 1/4” pieces, about 1/4 cup
1/2 onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons brown butter
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons lightly toasted roughly chopped almonds
2 tablespoons lightly toasted roughly chopped pistachios
1/4 cup dried mulberries
6 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
Soak the bulgur in warm water for 15 minutes and drain.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over high heat and add the pasta after a minute. Stir the pasta to coat it with oil, and immediately reduce the heat to medium. Continue to stir the pasta for 3 to 4 minutes, until it turns a caramel-brown color. This will happen very quickly.
Stir in the onion and continue to cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onion has softened. Stir the bulgur into the onion and pasta, adding 2 tablespoons of the brown butter.
Add the chicken broth and season lightly with about a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and cook vigorously for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, 7 to 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, place a clean, dry dish towel over it, and press the lid down tightly on top. Leave the pilaf to steam for 20 minutes. The cloth will absorb all of the moisture, which will make bulgur fluffier and lighter.
Fluff the pilaf with a fork, add the nuts and mulberries, and reseason with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot with a drizzle more of brown butter on each serving. You can add a dollop of yogurt on the side or you can make a well in the center of each serving and spoon some yogurt in the middle.
This pilav/pilaf is wonderful. The browned butter and toasted pasta add so much flavor, as do the nuts. The yogurt caught me by surprise, until I remembered that every food in Turkey, just about, has yogurt in it!