MIDEAST & MEDITERRANEAN CUISINES

It was a real pleasure to discover Rose Dosti’s name on a cookbook I was asked to review.  The title of the book was MIDEAST & MEDITERRANEAN CUISINES published in 1993 by Fisher Books. At the time, I was reviewing cookbooks for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange.

Having lived in Los Angeles for most of my adult life—starting in 1961 when I was 21—I immediately recognized Ms. Dosti’s name from having avidly collected S.O.S. columns for decades.  I wish I had kept them all. I recently discovered an article featuring the top L.A. Times food writers of the past, referred to as the Golden Era. I think I was busy collecting the recipes of that Golden Era when I started saving them in the mid 1960s.

Reading food editors recipe columns in various newspapers  had long been a favorite pastime of mine since way back when I began clipping recipes from the Cincinnati Enquirer and following the food writing of a woman named Fern Storer, but when we moved to Miami for three years, I  realized that hardly anyone could compare with the recipe columns of the Los Angeles Times food editors.  I found myself begging friends to save the Times Thursday food sections for me. When we returned to live in the San Fernando Valley in 1982, I returned to clipping recipes.

It was one of my greatest pleasures when the Los Angeles Times published not one – not two – but three S.O.S. cookbooks based on the S.O.S. columns. (But I have to say, when the L.A. Times changed their format and the type of recipes being printed in the food column – I quite frankly lost interest.  The newer format may appeal to most people but I miss the “old” S.O.S. column.)

Three of the cookbooks compiled and edited by Rose Dosti include:

DEAR S.O.S. – THIRTY YEARS OF RECIPE REQUESTS (to the Los Angeles Times) was first printed in 1994.

DEAR S.O.S. – DESSERT RECIPE REQUESTS (to the Los Angeles Times) was published in 1996

DEAR S.O.S. – FAVORITE RESTAURANTS FROM THE LOS ANGELES TIMES was published in 2001

Also written by Rose Dosti is MIDDLE EASTERN COOKING published in 1987.

Having said that, let me tell you about another one of Ms. Dosti’s cookbooks (and I’ll come back to the S.O.S. cookbooks at a later time):

The title of the book is MIDEAST & MEDITERRANEAN CUISINES and it was published in 1993.

Rose Dosti, the publishers explain, as a seasoned traveler, was fascinated with the variety of beauty of foods from the Mideast and Mediterranean. “After every visit to the land of milk and honey” they said, “Rose became more aware of the growing interest in the cooking shown by Western cooks.”

And what are the Mideast-Mediterranean cuisines? These cuisines encompass a vast portion of the middle of the world known as the Middle East—the near east (Greece, Turkey, and Armenia): Iran, North Africa, the Arab world (Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt): and Israel. Most share common staples such as lamb, eggplant, yogurt, white cheese, pita bread and filo pastries, yet each has its own character.

Persian cuisine, explain the publishers, is complex and colorful, while Arab cuisine is earthy and simple. And while the idea of many dishes doesn’t differ, methods of preparation do, so that baklava may be made with pistachios in Lebanon, or almonds in Turkey (while my own Greek version is made with finely ground walnuts!) And while Arabs use a pastry dough that is patted to a hefty sheet to make baklava, the Turks and Greeks use dough that has been stretched paper thin (my German  grandmother’s strudel dough!)

In the introduction, the author provides a far more detailed explanation for what she refers to as the Five Cuisines. These are broken down into the classifications of Iranian, Arabian, Near East, North African and Israeli Cuisines.  She also provides a glossary of Food and Drink which you will find most helpful in deciphering various ingredients although I think you will recognize many, if not most of them.

Starting with Appetizers, indulge yourself in recipes such as Meat-Stuffed Grape Leaves (I have a small grape arbor!) or Garbanzo Bean Dip, Middle Eastern Pizza, or Eggplant Dip. Under Soups, Salads & Sauces, you will find recipes such as Pomegranate Lentil Soup (and pomegranate juice is available virtually every where nowadays), Bean Soup, Zucchini-Relish Salad, or Pocket-Bread Salad. Learn how to make Cracker Bread or Persian Flat Bread, Greek Pita Bread (much easier than you may think!) or Arabic Pocket Bread. I would like to try my hand at making Greek Holiday Bread.

Filo Dishes include Spinach Pie (Spanakopita) which I actually made for one of our parties one year,, or Filo Triangles. Dessert recipes include wonderful Pistachio Baklava and Walnut Cake (Karitopita), and Greek Wedding Cakes (Kourabiedes) which are also known as Russian Tea Cakes and Mexican wedding cakes! always favorites during the Christmas holidays.

There are also recipes for making your own yogurt or almond paste (which is kind of expensive to buy already-made but easy enough to make your own  with some blanched almonds. There is even a recipe for making your own preserved grape leaves, something I would like to try.

These are just a few of the many recipes to be found in Rose Dosti’s MIDEAST & MEDITERRANEAN CUISINES.

MIDEAST & MEDITERRANEAN CUISINES by Rose Dosti is available on Amazon.com new for $10.98 or pre-owned starting at fourteen cents.

–Review by Sandra Lee Smith

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