Impassioned by curiosity and nostalgia, Claudia Roden wrote the original landmark "Book of Middle Eastern Food" in the 1960s. Cosmopolitan and erudite, Roden chronicled the sweeping history of Byzantine, Islamic, and Ottoman empires influencing cuisine of the Levant, punctuated by caliphates and their dieticians, poets devoted to savoir manger, and slaves who would be cooks who would be viziers. In the updated version she revisited and/or added several hundred recipes, paying less heed to borders than to regions defined by commonalities of cuisine. Roden is a generous, joyous cook who arms readers with comprehensive information while encouraging them to experiment with their own variations: “You cannot go wrong if you trust your taste.”
The Benefits: Nutritious vegetarian and vegan options abound: borani-e esfenaj — a spinach and yogurt salad with plenty of immunity-boosting garlic; fassoulia beida, a simple purée of navy beans, beneficial for your gut, with olive oil and lemon juice; Moroccan-style sweet potatoes with a surprising mix of ginger, tomatoes, and chile.
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