Tips for baking better bread

 sourdough bread
One of the most enticing aromas to come out of a kitchen is the scent of freshly baked bread. Even though few things beat a loaf of homemade bread, many people don't bake it frequently. They may be intimidated by the process or might feel like it involves far too much measuring or math. Over at Epicurious, famed baker Rose Levy Beranbaum it taking the apprehension out of baking with her detailed guide to baking better bread

The guide is published in several parts, each focusing on a different aspect of the process. The first segment covers measuring, kneading, and proofing. While explaining several different ways to mix together the ingredients and knead the dough, Beranbaum points out two key points about this part of the process. The first is that you should always keep the salt from interacting directly with the yeast because it can kill it. Either mix the flour with the yeast or salt before adding the other ingredient so that there is a buffer between the two. Another important aspect is to make sure the temperature of the water or liquid you add to the dough is correct. Too hot and the yeast will die; too cold and the dough will take much longer to rise (better to err on the side of cold). 

Additional segments of the guide cover choosing ingredients and which tools and equipment are essential to the process. A kitchen scale is highly recommended, and you should make sure you have the correct size loaf pans to suit your particular bread. The pans should be heavy and have a dull finish, which "absorbs heat so it browns better than a shiny finish which deflects heat." The final article delves into mastering the art of sourdough. 

Photo of  Basic sourdough bread from  The Bread Bible  by  Rose Levy Beranbaum

Cookbook Giveaway - Divine Food

Divine Food: Israeli and Palestinian Food Culture and Recipes by David Haliva is one of those cookbooks that if I never cooked a recipe from it, I would still be madly in love with its beauty. This book has substance to complement its beauty - I want to cook all the recipes and am making a cake from the book today. 

For more information on this title, please see our review and recipe post.

We are pleased to offer two copies of Divine Food to our EYB Members worldwide. One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

What recipe in the index would you make first?

Please note there may be a change on the entry option that involves signing up for the publisher's newsletter - they are possibly offering a copy or two of the book (in addition to our giveaway) for those who sign up for their newsletter. I will hear back from them tomorrow and make any necessary changes. 

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on April 2nd, 2017. 

Be sure to check your email spam folders for email notifications or check back on this post for the names of the winners.



Divine Food - David Haliva

Divine Food: Israeli and Palestinian Food Culture and Recipes by David Haliva is one of those cookbooks that if I never cooked a recipe from it, I would still be madly in love with its beauty. This book has substance to complement its beauty - I want to cook all the recipes.

There are so many beautiful books being published each year that EYB members must feel at times that I love all the books. It's true I do love cookbooks with a white hot passion but only the cream of the crop. I share the best of the best with you because no one has time for mediocre. Divine Food is such a title - it is truly extraordinary.

Each chapter shares the history, culture and context of each region: the North, the South, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem. Breathtaking photographs of each recipe are shared along with the people, artisans, markets and beauty of the Israel and Palestine landscape. You can't help but fall in love with this book and the people of this region, as I have, and I haven't even touched on the food yet!

The food - is glorious - or as the title indicates - divine. Sweet Focaccia with Oranges, Lahm Bi Ajin (Middle Eastern pizza) and a Pistachio Cake that has me changing my menu to add this dessert today (photo to right). I just learned today is National Pistachio Day so I made a perfect choice. Jersualem bagels, sourdough bread and much more. 

This book is rich in history and you will find yourself, as I was, lost in its pages and stories. I am gushing, yes, but this title warrants gushing. I liken this title to Carolyn Phillips' All Under Heaven - the best of the best - for its particular subject matter. 

Special thanks to the author and Gestalten for sharing the recipe for Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad with our members. Be sure to head to our contest page to enter our worldwide giveaway of Divine Food. You do not need to be a fan of Middle Eastern food to covet this book, you need to be is a fan of beautiful food and a desire to embrace the beauty of another culture. 


Cauliflower is one of those beautiful ingredients utterly transformed by heat. Raw it is nothing special; once roasted in the oven its flavor mellows its florets crisp up, and it achieves something close to perfection. Fried or roasted cauliflower with tahini is common in Palestinian cuisine, here joined by cooked chickpeas with their earthly flavor and soft texture.  



1/2 cup (100g) dried chickpeas
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. coarse salt
2 small heads of cauliflower
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1/4 tsp. fine salt
1/2 cup (80ml) raw tahini paste
1/2 cup (120ml) cold water
Juice of 1/2 lemon


One day in advance: Thoroughly wash the chickpeas, place them in a large bowl, cover with water, and add the baking soda. Leave to soak overnight.

Day of:

Drain the chickpeas, place in a saucepan, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 1 1/2 hours, or until chickpeas are very soft. Set aside.

Fill another saucepan with water, add the coarse salt, and bring to a boil. Add the heads of cauliflower and cook over high heat for 8 minutes.

Preheat oven to 480 degrees F (250 degrees C).

Line a roasting tray with greaseproof paper. Remove the cauliflowers with a slotted spoon and place on prepared tray. Pour the olive oil over them and sprinkle with fine salt. Roast for 25 minutes, or until parts of the cauliflower have turned golden brown. 

In a small bowl, mix the raw tahini paste, water, lemon juice, and fine salt until smooth.

Remove cauliflowers from the oven, cut into 3/4 inch thick (2 cm thick) slices, and place in a  bowl.

Gently mix together drained chickpeas, roasted cauliflower slices, and half the tahini sauce, and arrange in a serving bowl. 

Pour the rest of the tahini on top, add a tablespoon of olive oil, and serve.

Photography by Dan Perez, from Divine Food, Copyright Gestalten 2016. Photo of Pistachio Cake by Jenny Hartin. 


Vintage menus show how much differently we eat now


While it might seem like humans have been eating the same kinds of foods for hundreds of years, a quick scan of an online menu archive located at the New York Public Library will dispell such notions. Seeing the items that have waxed and waned in popularity at dining establishments around the world is eye-opening. The archive contains over 1,332,495 dishes transcribed from 17,545 menus from restaurants the world over, dating as far back as the 1840s. 

While the Western world is experiencing a broadening of its palates with the embrace of flavors from the Middle East, India, and China, it has lost its taste for many meats. Offal used to make much more frequent appearances in restaurants, with different organs rising and falling in popularity over the years. Kidney, tongue, brain, and liver, which made frequent appearances on menus in the early part of the 20th century all but disappeared at the end of it. There's been a small resurgence in these items with the nose-to-tail movement, but it's nowhere near the levels seen 100 years ago. 

If you click through the article to the menu archive, you might find yourself down the rabbit hole for hours. It's a fascinating glimpse back in time via food. You can sort by date, name, or number of dishes, and you can quickly zoom to a particular decade. 

Cookbook Giveaway - The Italian Baker

The Italian Baker: 100 International Baking Recipes with a Modern Twist by Melissa Forti is a beautiful book from a self-taught baker. Melissa's Tea Room and Cakes in Italy comes to life in this stunner of a cookbook.

For more information on this title, please our review post that shares a recipe for Tiramisu Cake!  

We are pleased to offer three copies of this title to our EYB Members in the US.

One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

What recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on April 1, 2017.  

Be sure to check your email spam folders for email notifications or check back on this post on the for the names of the winners.


The Italian Baker - Melissa Forti

The Italian Baker: 100 International Baking Recipes with a Modern Twist by Melissa Forti is an incredible baking book from a baker who is self-taught. Born in Rome, Melissa lived in Los Angeles and London before settling in Sarzana, Italy where she opened a boutique bakery and tea room. 

Sarzana is a town on the popular Ligurian coast of north-west Italy. Its location on one of the most important Roman trade roads to France, the famous "Via Francigena", made it a town that has been coveted across the centuries by the Florentines, Genoese, and Pisans.

Melissa's Tea Room and Cakes draws locals and tourists alike with her freshly baked treats and atmosphere. A quick glance at reviews of the tea room finds raves and positive remarks. This book harnesses the spirit of the gorgeous setting and for those of us who will unlikely visit the Italian city of Sarzana, we can experience the deliciousness of the tea room's offerings. (Photo of the tea room below by Melissa Forti.)

From the moment I saw the cover, I knew I would love this book. Spectacular photographs of each dessert taken by Danny Bernardini as well as his photographs of Melissa and her tea room truly bring the spirit of the author and her bakery to life - a throwback to vintage Italy. And then we have the recipes - Torta Mimosa (a cake made to resemble the tropical mimosa flower)  Parrozzo (a dome shaped cake), Orange Meringata E Arancia (orange meringue genoise) and Cheesecake Al Pistacchio E Lamponi (pistachio and raspberry cheesecake) - all are showstoppers. Every recipe in this book is special and totally approachable. I made the Raspberry Blondies for my son and he loved them and I am looking forward to making many more desserts from The Italian Baker.

I am so pleased that we are able to share the recipe for the Tiramisu Cake below with our readers. Special thanks to Quadrille Publishing and the author for doing so and to Danny Bernardini for the photograph. Please be sure to head to our contest page and enter our giveaway for this book - any baker would love this title.


torta tiramisu a modo mio 
tiramisù cake my way 

"Lift me up"! This is what tiramisù means literally. There are many versions of this dessert, some following the traditional way of using savoiardi sponge biscuits (cookies), others just consisting of mascarpone cream poured into a glass or ramekin and dusted with cocoa powder. In Liguria, where I live, they use a type of light, sweet cookie called a pavesino. This is yet another version of the dessert, prepared my way. At my shop this cake sells really, really fast and I am sure it will disappear pretty quickly in your house too! Serve it at the end of a dinner, or have it for breakfast, or simply whenever you feel down or tired and need to be "lifted up"!
Serves 8-12


A little softened butter, for greasing
285g (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) plain (all-purpose) flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
200g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
4 eggs, separated
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
100ml (scant ½ cup) vegetable oil
200ml (¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon) strong brewed black coffee
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
Good-quality cocoa powder, for dusting
For the mascarpone frosting
250ml (1 cup plus 2 teaspoons) double (heavy) cream
250g (9oz) mascarpone cheese
90g (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) icing (confectioner's) sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter two 20-cm/8-inch cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

Sift the flour into a medium bowl, add the baking powder and half the sugar and whisk to combine.

Put the egg yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and place the egg whites in a large, clean bowl with the cream of tartar. Add the oil, half the coffee, the salt and vanilla to the egg yolks and beat until mixed, then add the flour mixture and beat until well incorporated; do not over-mix.

Using an electric hand-held whisk, whisk the egg whites until frothy, then add the remaining sugar and whisk to stiff peaks. Gently fold the whisked egg whites into the cake mixture, then divide the mixture between the prepared tins and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and brush the remaining coffee over both, using a pastry brush. Wait for it to soak in, about 2 minutes, then invert the cakes on to a wire rack and cool.

For the mascarpone frosting, whip the cream in a mixing bowl, using an electric hand-held whisk, until medium stiff. Meanwhile using the paddle attachment on the stand mixer, beat the mascarpone until creamy. Beat the whipped cream into the mascarpone and icing sugar.

To assemble, brush the remaining coffee over both cooled cakes. Place one cake on a cake board or plate. Spread some mascarpone cream over the top, using a spatula. Dust generously with cocoa powder and top with the second cake. Spread the remaining mascarpone cream over the top and sides of the cake. Dust the top with cocoa powder.

The rich history of butter

Butter: A Rich HistoryButter forms the foundation of most pastries, cookies, and cakes, and it is indispensible in many savory dishes as well. A recently published book about the ubiquitous dairy product dives into its 10,000 year history, tracing its rise from accidental discovery by herders to revered culinary catalyst. Butter: A Rich History by award-winning food writer and chef Elaine Khosrova serves up a story as rich, textured, and culturally relevant as butter itself.

NRP's The Salt explores this intriguing history in an interview with the author. Khosrova's book details the vital role butter has played in politics, economics, nutrition, even spirituality and art. "I felt like I had uncovered an epic story that very few people had been paying attention to," she explained to NPR.

There are many interesting tidbits of information about the role butter has played throughout history in many different cultures. Ancient Sumerians offered gifts of butter to honor of the fertility goddess Inanna, and early Celts likely presented butter as tribute to the pagan gods. Butter was used as medicine by the ancient Romans, and the first recorded student revolt - at Harvard University in the 1700s - was due to the students being served rancid butter in the dining hall.

In addition to this fascinating history, Butter includes an essential collection of carefully developed core butter recipes, from beurre manié and croissants to pâte brisée and the perfect buttercream frosting. It also provides practical how-tos for making various types of butter at home. 

Chef Jeremy Lee expounds on his favorite cookbooks

classic cookbooks

There are cookbooks and then there are cookbooks. The former operate as an instructional manual, providing the outline you need to make a particular dish. The latter, on the other hand, transport you through time and space, allowing you to better understand a culture and inspiring you to create. Chef Jeremy Lee talks about the books that he places in the latter category in an interview with The Guardian

Lee, who began his cooking career in the 1970s, grew up in a household where reading, cooking, and eating were equally enjoyed. He recalls his mother sitting at a kitchen table strewn with cookbooks, with a pad and pencil at the ready for notetaking. This is how he best enjoys reading cookery books, at home surrounded by "piles of this, that and the other." 

The chef is a bit disparaging of modern cookbooks replete with glossy photographs, positing that the reliance on beautiful pictures may signal a diminishment of the quality of the writing as well as the cook's imagination. This view seems a bit misguided, as many books today contain eloquent writing and masterfully evoke a strong sense a time and place (see the recent reviews in The 2017 Piglet for examples, including Ronni Lundy's Victuals and Vivian Howard's Deep Run Roots).

This criticism aside, Lee aptly explains why particular cookbooks stand the test of time in his description of the books that have inspired him over the years. He provides a short list of five cookbook writers - all women - whom he elevates over the rest. These writers are Elizabeth David, Jane GrigsonF. Marian McNeill, Florence White, and Eliza Acton

Cookbook Giveaway - The Aleppo Cookbook

The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria by Marlene Matar is "a loving tribute to a little-known cuisine rich in flavors and traditions."

For more information on this title, please our review, author interview and recipe post

We are pleased to offer two copies of this title to our EYB Members in the US.

One of the entry options is to answer the following question in the comments section of this blog post:

What recipe in the index would you try first?

Please note that you must be logged into the Rafflecopter contest before posting or your entry won't be counted. If you are not already a Member, you can join at no cost. The contest ends at midnight on March 31, 2017.  (Note: This contest is running a little longer in order for the new shipment of books to arrive at the publisher.)

Be sure to check your email spam folders for email notifications or check back on this post on the for the names of the winners.

The Aleppo Cookbook - Interview & Recipe

The Aleppo Cookbook: Celebrating the Legendary Cuisine of Syria by Marlene Matar is "a loving tribute to a little-known cuisine rich in flavors and traditions."
Aleppo was a food capital long before New York, Paris or Rome thanks to its fertile soil and location between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates - at the intersection of the Silk Road. Syria's largest city has an incredibly rich and dynamic cultural heritage.
Marlene Matar captures the beauty of Aleppo within the pages of this book and the love she has for this war-torn city is palpable. It breaks my heart that such a truly vibrant, visually stunning city has been reduced to rumble. It is my fervent hope that it can return to its former glory. With books like Cook for SyriaSoup for Syria and this beautiful book, we can all learn to appreciate and feed our hunger with knowledge of other cultures. With knowledge and understanding comes acceptance, tolerance and eventually love and appreciation.  
The recipes contained within the pages of this special book were obtained from the kitchens of prominent families, cherished restaurants and great chefs, states Matar, who is a highly accomplished chef and cooking instructor. Matar starts with the basics - the fundamentals of Middle Eastern cooking and builds up to more complex dishes.
Over 200 recipes - all of which can be easily replicated in our kitchens include Meatballs in Sour Cherry Sauce, Red Pepper Bread, and Arabic-Clotted Cream Pancakes. The photographs of the food, the landscape, the people - are beautiful and reinforces the simple human truth that we are all so much more alike than different. I am deeply moved by The Aleppo Cookbook and I trust that you will be as well. 
I was fortunate enough to interview Marlene Matar. After the interview, please check out a recipe to try now from the book which is currently on backorder (second printing) but will be available in late March. Then, head over to our contest page to enter our giveaway of two copies of this book.  
First, I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your fascinating book. I place The Aleppo Cookbook on my top ten books of all time.
Q: I am immediately drawn to books that feature the cuisine of the Middle East and this type of cookbook has become very popular. What do you think attributes to this popularity?
Middle Eastern cuisine covers various geographical areas, different cultures and different ways of life. It is an exquisite cuisine so different from Western cuisine with its use of grains and legumes, vegetables, fruits,  burgal, olive oil, flat bread, garlic, sumac, nuts, rose water, orange blossom water and particularly the use of herbs and spices which are considered as sensuous. So, one reason for its popularity is the desire to experience the new and exotic in a world so different form the West.
Another reason for its attraction is the increasing interest of nutritionists and cookbooks authors in the health benefits of ME ingredients. From older times, the ME cuisine, particularly the Mediterranean, was labeled as healthy due to its use of olive oil in cooking and its vegetable cold dishes, lamb and vegetable stews. This coincided well with the greater interest in healthy living including healthy eating. All this was exacerbated with the popularity of TV food channels, the ease of travel, the internet, the social media and the availability of food ingredients that travel well as fresh, frozen, dried or vacuum packed.

We have experienced this in the Middle East in reverse as many restaurants opened during the last 15 years offering Italian, French, Japanese food, etc. There are numerous sushi restaurants with conveyor belts and many hamburger and Kentucky fried chicken joints.

Lately the interest in cookbooks is moving toward the Levantine cuisine called Almashrek, particularly that of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq where there are many similarities in dishes with more mezze dishes and the preponderant use of vegetables, kibbeh, lemon juice, rice, stews and burgal. This cuisine which is close to the Mediterranean cuisine is becoming very trendy and will stay for some time.
Q: I know the book's publication was delay and I can see why because the book is quite an accomplishment. When did you start this project and how long did you work on it? How was the process for you?

I was first introduced to Aleppian cuisine through my Aleppian students who invited me to their homes and introduced me to excellent heritage dishes prepared from recipes inherited from their mothers and grandmothers.

The first trip to Aleppo was in 2008 with a TV crew when I videotaped 10 Aleppian dishes from various restaurants and hotels. I met at the time members of the Syrian Academy of gastronomy who were doing their best to bring Aleppian cuisine known to the world through various articles that appeared in the West. Their wish coincided with my desire to document their cuisine. The project saw light when they offered me accommodations and opened the doors for my entry to Aleppo's best restaurants and upper society family kitchens.
Q: Did you spend time in Aleppo gathering research or did you do most of it from your home in Beirut?

My research was mainly done in Aleppo during long visits between 2009 and 2011. I was lucky to be introduced to families with whom I spent unforgettable hours in their kitchens and on their dinner tables.

I was granted permission to visit restaurants' kitchens where I cooked with the chefs who were so considerate and gracious as to make me taste many of their dishes. I spent a few days in the basement of two sweet shops where precious tips and techniques were passed on to me.

I woke up early every morning with the Academy's cook preparing the meal of the day taking note of all the ingredients and the recipe, went up to the roof top to char-grill kibbeh. I spent a number of days with a professional photographer who photographed the old city with me. One has to feel the city's tempo, the geography and the weather, mix with the people, chat with them and eat their food to be able to produce a cookbook of a country you were not born in. I am thankful to all those people who helped me. My hope is to go back to Aleppo and to make sure that they are all safe.

I spent 2012 in Beirut where I cooked with an Aleppian Chef in my kitchen perfecting a number of dishes and their ingredients. But the bulk of the research work was done in Aleppo itself with Aleppian ingredients. The first Aleppo book was published in Arabic in 2012. The process of editing with the publisher took a long time adapting it to American standards.

Q: To someone new to Syrian cuisine - which recipes would you recommend they start with to familiarize themselves with the ingredients? Which are a few of your favorite recipes from The Aleppo Cookbook?

I am not new to Syrian cuisine because many Syrian dishes are similar to Lebanese dishes with slight variations, but I consider Aleppian cuisine quite different and I dare call it "International Middle Eastern Cuisine" because it is greatly influenced by the West which occupied the city, or passed through it since ancient times and particularly during the Silk Road era. There is a rivalry for the trophy of good food between Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo which is considered the second capital of Syria.

I would recommend for readers of my book to try the appetizer "Red Pepper and Walnut Spread" which is prepared with three main ingredients, that highlight Aleppian cuisine and which I call "the trinity"; first is the red pepper paste prepared from red pepper and is such an added taste to any tomato sauce and to which the West has called Umami the 6th taste. The second is pomegranate molasses adding a sweet and sour taste to many dishes, the third is Aleppo pepper which is much superior in taste than paprika, it has a more vivid red color, slightly coarser, rubbed with olive oil and sun-dried. It is added to kibbeh and serves as a beautiful decoration on many dishes.

To familiarize themselves with ingredients "Freekeh with Chicken" is a good one to try, so is "Bulgar and Yogurt Dip". "Aleppian Batersh" is another dish easy to prepare but one has to be a little generous with fat by adding little ghee or butter to the olive oil in the recipe. "Travelling Jew" prepared with coarse burgal is good to try so is "Fish Fillet with Aleppian Spices"

The reader should try the round small kibbehs which are easy to core compared to the elongated egg shaped kibbeh or prepare "Butcher's Kibbeh" that needs no coring. I love their signature dish "Kabab Karaz" and their two sweet and sour dishes prepared with quince "Quince Stew" and "kibbeh with Quince". I devour "Fried Vegetable Patties" before they reach the table. I love all their dishes that fall between a soup and a stew and I often prepare them during winter, they are kibbeh dishes and usually have meat, kibbeh and a vegetable or more with a thin stock such as "kibbeh in sumac Stock" or "Kibbeh in Pomegranate Stock".  "Vegetarian Kibbeh with Spinach" is such a lovely vegetarian dish where the kibbeh is easy to core because of its thick walls, it is boiled and dipped in a no-cook delicious sauce.
I love every dish that has pomegranate molasses. But there is a great difference between the real where pomegranate juice is simmered for a long time and the fake where sugar, citric acid or color is added to the juice.   

Q: When I read books that focus on Middle Eastern cuisine it always brings the world a little closer to me and I realize, once again, that we are far more alike than different. What is the most important thing you hope the reader take away from your book?

The reader will be amazed at the uniqueness and diversity of Aleppian heritage dishes and sense the stamp of many civilizations and traditions that crossed the roads of Aleppo since ancient times and how the people have incorporated aspects of these civilizations in their own cuisine.
The reader will feel the effect of the Silk Road on nations and cities in terms of history, culture as reflected in the dishes prepared by the area.
Certainly the reader will feel empathy with the loss of lives and destruction of this ancient city which is one of three oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and which had a lot to offer to humanity.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your career in Beirut? Do you have a collection of cookbooks yourself and if so what are a few of your favorites?

After I graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris with a Grand Diplome in Cooking and Pastry, I started my "Cooking Courses" in 1998 and was on NBN TV channel for 10 years.

I am a cookbook writer and published my first book in Arabic in 2010 "Maidat Marlene min al Sharq wa al Gharb" now in its 5th printing; it was partially translated to English "Marlene's Best Recipes from East and West" in 2010. In 2012 I published "Maidat Marlene min Halab" in Arabic. "Nights of Lebanon" was published in English in 2015 for Chef's cut in Holland. "Maidat Marlene min Halab" was published in English by Interlink books in 2016.

I have a big collection of cookbooks about International and Lebanese cuisine, one of which I consider the bible of all cookbooks is "Joy of Baking" and advise all my students to buy it. I cherish books by Claudia Rodin about the Middle East; I love Julia Child books such as "Baking with Julia", I like Madhur Jeffrey's books about Indian cuisine and "A taste of the far East".  The design and layout of Poopa Dweick book "Aromas of Aromas of Aleppo". "Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume" by Silvena Rowe is nice and colorful and fun to look at the pictures.

Try this recipe shared with permission of Interlink Books and Marlene Matar.

Koosa Mahshi

Serves 4-6
Preparation Time: 25-30 Minutes
Cooking Time: 30 Minutes

Serve this delicious dish with Garlic Yogurt with Mint (p. 98). You can use the inner flesh in Zucchini and Garlic in Olive Oil (p. 46), or Zucchini Omelets (p. 65).

2 lb/1 kg small zucchini (about 9), at room temperature
A few lamb or beef bones (optional)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the stuffing

1/ 3 cup/2½ oz/70 g short-grain rice, preferably Egyptian
7 oz/200 g lean ground lamb or beef
¼ cup/60 ml olive oil or melted butter
1 teaspoon Aleppo spice mix or seven-spice powder
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1.  Using the tines of a fork, make thin grooves along the length of the zucchini (optional). Cut off the stem.

2.  Hollow the inside with the help of a corer, leaving a thin shell.

3.   Prepare the stuffing: Wash and drain the rice, then mix in the rest of the stuffing ingredients.

4. Fill the zucchini with the stuffing, pressing lightly and leaving ½ in/1 cm empty at the opening to allow the rice to expand.

5. Place bones (if using) in a large pot. Arrange the stuffed zucchini on top and cover with water. Add the salt and oil.

6. Place an upturned plate on top of the stuffed zucchini in the pot, and place a weight on top of the plate. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes until the zucchini is tender and the rice is cooked.

7. Transfer the stuffed zucchini to a serving platter, reserving the cooking liquid for reheating any leftovers. (Stuffed zucchini can be made 1 day ahead and stored in the refrigerator.)

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!