Spice : Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-09-08
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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On a trip to Turkey as a young woman, chef Ana Sortun fell in love with the food and learned the traditions of Turkish cooking from local women. Inspired beyond measure, Sortun opened her own restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the award-winning Oleana, where she creates her own interpretations of dishes incorporating the incredible array of delicious spices and herbs used in eastern regions of the Mediterranean. In this gorgeously photographed book, Sortun shows readers how to use this philosophy of spice to create wonderful dishes in their own homes. She reveals how the artful use of spices and herbs rather than fat and cream is key to the full, rich flavors of Mediterranean cuisine -- and the way it leaves you feeling satisfied afterward. The book is organized by spice, detailing the ways certain spices complement one another and how they flavor other foods and creating in home cooks a kind of sense-memory that allows for a more intuitive use of spice in their own dishes. The more than one hundred tantalizing spice categories and recipes include: Beef Shish Kabobs with Sumac Onions and Parsley Butter Chickpea and Potato Terrine Stuffed with Pine Nuts, Spinach, Onion, and Tahini Crispy Lemon Chicken with Za'atar Golden Gazpacho with Condiments Fried Haloumi Cheese with Pear and Spiced Dates Absolutely alive with spices and herbs, Ana Sortun's recipes will intrigue and inspire readers everywhere.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
How This Book Is Organizedp. xiii
Spicesp. 1
The Three Cs: Cumin, Coriander, and Cardamomp. 2
Saffron, Ginger, and Vanillap. 38
Sumac, Citrus, and Fennel Seedp. 70
Allspice, Cinnamon, and Nutmegp. 102
Favorite Chilies: Aleppo, Urfa, and Paprikap. 140
Three Seeds: Poppy, Nigella, and Sesamep. 172
Gold and Bold: Curry Powder, Turmeric, and Fenugreekp. 196
Herbs and Other Key Mediterranean Flavorsp. 226
Dried Herbs: Mint, Oregano, and Za'atarp. 228
Fresh Herb Combinations: Parsley, Mint, Dill, and Sweet Basilp. 248
Oregano, Summer Savory, Sage, Rosemary, and Thymep. 274
Flower Power: Cooking with Nasturtium, Orange Blossom, Rose, Chamomile, Lavender, and Jasminep. 300
Rich, Creamy Flavor: Nuts, Yogurt, and Cheesep. 330
Resourcesp. 358
Acknowledgmentsp. 361
Indexp. 363
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean

Chicken Egg-Lemon Soup
with Grano and Sumac

Makes 8 cups

This variation of the classic Greek egg-lemon soup called avgolemono is for lemon fans. It's one of my favorite soups; its smooth, velvety texture comforts me. See note on grano, page 88.


1 cup grano, soaked in water overnight
8 cups rich chicken stock,
preferably homemade
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 1/4 lemons)
4 egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ teaspoon sumac


In a medium saucepan, bring 8 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Drain the soaked grano and add it, little by little, to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the grano for 30 to 40 minutes until it is soft. Drain.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil and add half of the cooked grano (about 1 ¼ cups). Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes to concentrate the flavor of the broth and make the grano as tender as possible.

Allow the soup to cool down to a warm temperature, and then purée it in a blender until it is very smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If the soup is very hot when you blend it, it may cause a suction in the blender and pop the top, so be careful to cool the soup.

Pour the purée back into the soup pot and add the remaining grano. Bring it to a boil on medium heat and reduce the heat again to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and egg yolks.

Ladle a cup of the hot chicken soup into the yolk mixture, whisking vigorously. Repeat with another cup of hot soup. Add the egg-lemon mixture to the pot, still whisking.

Bring the soup back to a simmer slowly, still on low heat, stirring constantly to prevent the egg yolks from curdling but allowing them to cook through and thicken the soup a little more.

Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle each serving generously with sumac.

If you have bits of shredded chicken from a homemade chicken stock, you can stir in a cup or two of shredded meat. The grano will keep absorbing liquid (semolina is known for this), so this soup may get a lot thicker when left in the fridge overnight. You can thin it out with more chicken stock.

Baby Sole with Crab and Raki

Serves 6

We've had this elegant dish on the menu at Oleana since we opened in the winter of 2001. I was inspired to create it after I had a delicious meal at a fish restaurant on the Asian side of Istanbul, where I dined on creamy eggplant with crab that was broiled with raki. I also sipped on raki as I ate, and discovered that the liqueur matches perfectly with the flavors of eggplant and crab.

Raki, also called Arak, is a fennel-flavored liqueur similar to Greek ouzo that brings out the wonderful flavors in this dish but won't overwhelm it. If raki is unavailable, you can substitute ouzo or even the French pastis or pernod. If raki or ouzo doesn't appeal to you for sipping, try a clean pinot gris from Oregon, with ripe stone fruit flavors.

Serve Eggplant Soufflé (page 265) with this delicate fish dish.


1 cup heavy cream
½ pound Maine or Dungeness crabmeat
1 plum tomato, quartered and seeds removed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
Six 4- to 5-ounce sole or flounder fillets, boned and skinned
1 ¾ to 2 cups fish fumet (page 161)
½ cup raki or ouzo
4 tablespoons butter


Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

In a small heavy saucepan, over medium heat, bring the cream to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 12 minutes, until the cream is thick and reduced by half.

Meanwhile, drain the crabmeat in a colander and press on it, extracting as much water as possible without tearing up the meat.

Chop the tomato into a small dice and place it in a medium mixing bowl with the crabmeat.

Add the fresh herbs and gently stir in the cream, seasoning the mixture with salt and pepper. The thick cream should bind the crabmeat but not make it soupy or too creamy.

Season both sides of the fillets with salt and pepper and place them; skin-side up, into a baking dish or roasting pan.

Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the crab mixture on the bottom third of each fillet and roll the fillet over and around the crab mixture, making 6 roulades. Make sure the roulades are tightly rolled for a nice presentation.

Add the fish fumet and raki to the pan and bake the fish for 16 to 18 minutes, until it is just cooked through.

Remove the fish from the baking dish and set it aside under foil to keep it warm. Reserve your pan juices in a small saucepan.

Just before serving, heat the saucepan with pan juices over high heat. Boil the juices until they reduce by a little more than half and are slightly thickened and concentrated, 12 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. When the butter is incorporated, remove the saucepan from the heat and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Pour the sauce over the fish and serve immediately. You can also pass the sauce around the table in a gravy pitcher for guests to pour themselves.

Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean
. Copyright © by Ana Sortun. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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