Some 40 years before Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem,
Time-Life Books introduced American home cooks to the wonders of Middle Eastern cuisine with its Middle Eastern Cooking – Foods Of The World. Some of the books in the series dumbed down the flavors and simplified the ingredients but this was the real deal, unapologetically endorsing calves’ feet, lamb’s liver, pomegranate juice and an otherwise conventional skewered swordfish recipe that includes 30 bay leaves.
I was lucky enough to have access to this book as a tyke, and it gave me one of my first cues that there was good food to be had beyond fried chicken and black-eyed peas. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I recently acquired a well-used copy and have been discovering it anew. The preps in general are pretty straightforward, but the way the ingredients are combined creates some flavor excitement.
I’ll be sharing my take on a few of the recipes from time to time, but it’s worth springing for your own copy. There’s both a hardcover coffee table book and a spiral bound recipe guide. Normally I’d just recommend the latter (which I believe includes recipes not in the hardcover) but the context is important to some of the dishes so I’d say if you have to buy them separately get them both. Don’t pay for any condition higher than “acceptable” since you’re going to be spilling stuff on it.