My second cookbook Rice Pasta Couscous: The Heart of the Mediterranean Kitchen (published by Chronicle Books in Fall 2009) explores the culture and traditions of rice, pasta, and couscous in the Mediterranean.
The book first explores the unity of these three grand staples and their similarities around the Mediterranean – essentially, their cultural and historical significance, their role not only as basic food-stuffs but at the center of celebrations, traditions, family meals, and life’s transitions. The book then delves into their differences and regional varieties in tastes, flavors, and preparations.
The book is a natural progression from my last book, La Paella: Deliciously Authentic Rice Dishes from Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. At my mother-in-law’s table in Barcelona I learned how a simple staple (rice in the form of her seafood paella) could be transformed into something not only sublimely delicious but also an anchor to both family and community. Everything, it seems, passes through the paella. I began to see how friends in Tunisia and Morocco (and a few in Marseille) gathered with the family for couscous after Friday prayers and shared the week’s events just as we did on Saturdays over rice. And as other friends in Naples did on Sundays over huge meals that always included plenty of pasta. And in Vercelli with risotto, and in Istanbul with a dazzling pilaf…
The book explores, records, and celebrates three of the Mediterranean’s grand staples. It’s more than a collection of recipes, but rather a work that records what it’s like to live, travel, and to savor these staples from Alexandria to Algiers, Barcelona to Palermo, and Dubrovnik to Tunis.
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