By Joanna Prisco
Didn’t make it to the Mediterranean coast this summer? You can still enjoy the flavors of its singular cuisine thanks to Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week, The New Mediterranean Table: Modern and Rustic Recipes Inspired by Traditions Spanning Three Continents by Sameh Wadi. The renowned chef is also behind Minneapolis-based dining establishments Saffron Restaurant & Lounge and World Street Kitchen.
A multiple James Beard Award semifinalist for Rising Star and Best Chef Midwest, Wadi’s first cookbook was actually inspired by a recipe collection that his parents undertook during the 1980s. Along with his uncle, Wadi’s mother and father compiled and wrote the manuscript for a cookbook titled The Encyclopedia of Palestinian Cuisine, to pay tribute to their homeland. But when the family was forced to relocate during the Gulf War, the project was ultimately abandoned.
Now, The New Mediterranean Table picks up where those pages left off, inviting readers to explore what Wadi has come to adore about the dishes of the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa.
“Mediterranean cuisine connects me to my heritage and the bold essence of its culture,” writes Sameh in his introduction.
This is evident in the sumptuous selection of recipes he shares in Table, which is painted with memories of a childhood rich with traditional dishes.
“When I was growing up, lamb was a staple meat in our house, particularly the tougher cuts, such as the shank or shoulder that needed to be braised or slow cooked,” he recalls in a description for his grilled lamb chops with greek herbs and spices. “Nowadays, I must admit that I love a good chop.”
Other dishes, such as broccolini with grilled lemon, pine nuts and Aleppo chile and a smoky corn farina with tomato salad also bring new life to old favorites.
Merging new cuts, ingredients, and cooking techniques with classic Mediterranean flavor profiles, Wadi’s interpretations are accessible for the modern home cook but still steeped in authenticity. This is due in part to his reverence for the area’s renowned herbs and spices.
“One of the pillars of Mediterranean cuisine is the use and balance of intricate spices…” Wadi writes. “It has been a lifelong goal of mine to engage people in experiencing this rich culture through the diverse and vibrant flavors of the region. I consider myself an ambassador of my culture and heritage — a translator of old-world cuisine to everyday cooking.”
Visit Yahoo Food throughout the week for recipes from The New Mediterranean Table.
Check out other cookbooks from Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week: