Just in time for the hot sunny days of summer, a cookbook arrives with recipes suited to seasonal dishes and recipes that have been well vetted. Milk Street: Mediterranean Tuesday evenings comes from the seasoned cooking experts of Milk Street Kitchen, led by acclaimed radio and television host and author Christopher Kimball.
Sixth in the Milk Street cookbook line, this offering delves deep into the daring diversity of flavors of the Mediterranean, a region long known for its simple and healthy cuisine. With 125 recipes, this book not only includes dishes from southern European counterparts familiar to the region, Spain, Italy and France, but also introduces the cultures, traditions and robust cuisines of the region. North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean Levant region.
A perfect addition to a home cook’s collection, the book excels in both organization and step-by-step instructions that bring flavor and execution. The recipes are properly organized into three time-oriented sections:Quickly (45 minutes), Faster (35 minutes or less), and The fastest (25 minutes or less) with additional chapters on hearty vegetarian dishes, large soups and salads, flatbreads and sandwiches. The photography is stunning, provoking the senses and enticing readers to step into the kitchen and try out some easy-to-follow recipes for themselves.
With the book’s release this month, Kimball took the time to answer a few questions about why he and his team at Milk Street focused on the Mediterranean and what are some of his favorite finds while developing the book.
Jessica Dupuy (JD): Milk Street has built a reputation as a trusted source of great recipes and helpful cooking tips. Previous books focused on the broader category of cooking in general, rather than on a specific cuisine. What made you want to focus on a particular cuisine, and why did you choose the Mediterranean to begin with?
Christopher Kimball (CPK): Mediterranean cuisine is poorly understood; it focused almost exclusively on southern Europe, bypassing North Africa, much of the Middle East, Turkey, etc. And this is not “healthy” food – it is inherently healthy cuisine that is quite different.
JD: What was the research process for this book? Did you have any obvious dishes in mind that you wanted to include? Have there been any new discoveries for you?
CPK: We always start with the “usual suspects,” recipes that ostensibly represent a region, but soon find out that these are either the tip of the iceberg or that these recipes are actually made very differently from where they originated. Then, whether through real trips or research, we try to find the recipes that we do not know and that help to redefine the cuisine of a culture or a region.
JD: Which 3 to 5 ingredients do you think are definitive for the Mediterranean?
CPK: Tahini. Sumac. Za’atar. Pomegranate molasses. Harissa.
JD: Given the focus on a specific region of the world, have you made any other discoveries about the regional cooking techniques used that are different from how Milk Street did things in their own test kitchen?
CPK: There’s a small core of ingredients that come in many different forms – chickpeas, yogurt, eggplant, and feta, for example, but we were even more surprised at how very familiar ingredients like lemon and onions are being used in new ways, at least. for us. (We never really “discover” anything new because another culture has been doing this “thing” for centuries.)
JD: Do you feel like you got something from this particular project that was different, enriching or impactful compared to the other book projects you have done?
CPK: Yes. The idea of defining cuisines by country is awkward, imprecise at best. The cuisine is cultural. It comes from immigration and the inevitable intermingling of traditions that results in dishes that seem familiar even though they come from very different countries.
JD: Is it fair to ask yourself whether or not you have a few favorite recipes from this book? If so, what is it that sets them apart or makes them memorable to you?
CPK: My favorite recipe is the last one I cooked. I like it simple with great flavors. Maybe the Spanish chorizo, ham and white bean stew on the back cover or the Salmorejo – a tomato and bread soup that is made in a blender and defies reason because it turns lousy supermarket tomatoes into something. wonderful thing.
JD: Do you have a particular way of approaching cookbooks and new recipes that you want to try out? Do you have any tips or suggestions on how readers should go about introducing new recipes into their cooking routines? (For example, I usually go through a new book cover to cover, adding new recipes that I want to try. I read a recipe carefully before even buying any ingredients to understand the processes I will need to incorporate and the time. take me.)
CPK: You seem to be a very rational and organized home cook! I would only add that there is no right way to do this – whatever turns you on to go back to the kitchen. I’m a last-minute meal planner, flipping through a book about two seconds before going shopping. However, I have a huge advantage as I taste the food in our kitchen every day, so there is little trial and error when cooking at home.
JD: As we move into the warmer months of the year, it looks like Mediterranean cuisine is the perfect cooking style we should be looking for for seasonal flavor. What do you hope people will take away from reading and cooking this book?
CPK: It’s not just a question of food; it is about the kitchen. If people have learned anything over the past year, I hope the kitchen is the funniest room in the house and the place where one should spend the most time outside of sleeping. Anyone can make the time to cook, and in most cases, it’s time better spent than on Netflix or your iPhone. Cook for your children, your partner, your friends, your neighbors. Be a local hero!