The Mediterranean Herb Cookbook: Fresh and Savory Recipes from the Mediterranean Garden has been celebrated by many home cooks. I chose this as a great “starter book,” with recipes from cuisines across the Mediterranean. I thought it might be a particularly good choice for anyone just beginning to explore this way of cooking, as it provides the opportunity to experiment with foods from all different Mediterranean cuisines. With herbs at the center of your cooking, you’ll experience the depth and variety of flavors across this diverse region. And, you get all of the important health benefits of herbs too. Author Georgeanne Brennan, who is a James Beard award-winning cookbook author and teacher, deserves praise for this incredible book, in addition to her other award-winning book Potager.
The Mediterranean Herb Cookbook offers far more than just recipes. It is filled with beautiful photography of Mediterranean herbs and dishes. Before delving into recipes, you can read up on each of the common Mediterranean Herbs and their uses in various Mediterranean cuisines. There is a section on basic and foundational herbal recipes to include sauces, marinades, herb butters, herb mixtures, infused oils and vinegars and herby beverages. Lastly, there is a section on how to grow your own Mediterranean herbs in a variety of climates. I tried several recipes in the cookbook and there were three that I especially like. It just so happens that you could serve all three of these tasty dishes in the same meal!
Lentils and Potatoes with Bay Leaves
Are you interested in eating on a budget while eating satisfying and nutritional foods? This is the recipe for you. It’s prepared in a typical and simple Mediterranean way, so you can whip this up on a weeknight without a lot of effort. We expect that you’ll have most, if not all, of these ingredients in your pantry already, so it’s an excellent “go to” recipe on a night when you don’t have anything else planned. I found this dish to be delightful, with delicate flavorings of olive, bay leaf and thyme, with just a little zip from the garlic and onion. The lentils and potatoes pair well with a Greek salad of cucumber, tomato, green pepper and feta or with a Tabbouleh salad. A plus is that lentils are one of the most palatable beans for kids. You can feel great about serving this dish, as it is protein packed. Plus, it is chock-full of Mediterranean anti-inflammatory foods, such as olive oil, garlic and onion.
I have a strong appreciation for the classics in Mediterranean cooking. There’s something very satisfying about enjoying the traditional dishes and making them part of your own traditions. I especially enjoy the classic salads that are both simple to prepare and go well with just about any entrée. This recipe for Classic Tabbouleh is a great addition to your classic salad repertoire. If you are looking for a supremely herby creation, you’ll especially enjoy this one, with the bright flavors of mint and parsley highlighted with a hint of lemon. You’ll enjoy this dish at the height of the growing season, and it’s also good for brightening your meal in fall and winter.
Grilled Peaches Topped with Rosemary Mascarpone
A distinct characteristic of Mediterranean eating is that dessert is oftentimes a fresh piece of fruit, or a simply prepared fruit dessert. But, upon occasion you splurge and have a honeyed sweet, such as Baklavah or a decadent fruit dessert. We think this grilled peaches recipe fits the bill.
The book contains some recipes for more adventurous and experienced cooks. There is a hefty section of bread recipes. I especially love the homemade pasta recipe with pressed fresh purple basil leaves and flowers for an exciting and artful cooking adventure. All in all, I highly recommend this cookbook, particularly for those who are new to Mediterranean cooking. It would also make a fabulous gift.