An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair
If you want to learn about a culture, if you want to really get to know about and bond with the people, learn about the food. This is the lesson that was learned by Faith Gorsky when she married into a traditional Middle Eastern family. Living in Syria for the first six months of her marriage, Ms. Gorsky learned directly from a true expert on Middle Eastern food - her new mother-in-law. Speaking the language of food, they grew to understand one another, and from this understanding, a passion was sparked and An Edible Mosaic was born.
In this beautifully presented and thoughtfully arranged cookbook, Ms. Gorsky shares the results of her new-found passion. Between the stunning photography, the clear explanations of the different tools and ingredients, and the delicious recipes, An Edible Mosaic is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to learn about the culture, traditions and food of the Middle East.
When I received the cookbook, I had no idea where to start. With only the barest of experience with true Middle Eastern cuisine, everything looked absolutely delicious, but just exotic enough to make me nervous. But I trusted the author and decided to jump right in, and I am so pleased that I did.
I decided to start with a couple of the basics. Ms. Gorsky starts the book with several recipes for sauces, dressings and spice mixes that are used in a variety of applications in Middle Eastern cuisine. So what better place to start than the beginning?
The first recipe that I tried was for a simple Lemony Mint Salad Dressing, since several of the other dishes in the book use it as the main flavoring element. A simple and quick to prepare mixture of fresh lemon juice, mint, garlic and olive oil, this dressing tasted fresh and delicious. Used as the dressing for a chickpea salad, an eggplant salad, a cabbage salad, a beet salad - all options presented in the book, this dressing is very versatile. I even drizzled it over pasta for a fresh, light lunch with delicious results.
When it came to the spice mixes, I went with the Seven Spice blend, though I don't have coriander, so I left that out. Once the spices were mixed together, I set them aside, knowing I'd be using them throughout my further efforts.
Next, I chose a recipe from the Appetizers and Light Meals chapter - Zucchini Fritters. Reading the recipe, I thought that they would be a perfect accompaniment to just about any meal, but after tasting them, I can't help but think that they'd make a perfect breakfast. More of a cross between a frittata and a pancake than just a fritter, these were a hit. Even my six year old daughter who claims to not like zucchini liked them! What I appreciate about this recipe is that, while it is fried in oil, it still tasted fresh, thanks to the parsley and healthy helping of garlic.
Inspired by the successes of the first recipes I'd attempted, I decided to go for a full-out Middle Eastern meal. Using ground turkey in place of ground beef, I prepared the pan-fried kebabs, using the prepared spice blend and lots of finely chopped onion. These were sort of like meatballs, but without egg or breadcrumbs, so more like mini-burgers. Either way, the onions and spices blended together beautifully without being overly strong.
In addition to the kebabs, I also seasoned some sliced boneless, skinless chicken breast with the seven spice blend and sauteed it in a pan. This was absolutely my family's favorite part of the meal. The flavors were delicious and distinctive, yet, again, not too overpowering.
I served the meats on a bed of saffron-infused rice, inspired by the recipe for Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts. I have only used saffron once before, and was amazed by the vibrant color and subtle flavor that it infused into the rice. While the rice was not a huge hit with the kids, I found it to be a very complementary side to the meats.
Lastly, to round out our meal, I wanted to try a bread recipe from this book, so I selected the Sesame Seed Breads. This bread came together so easily and was very tasty. More puffy than a flat bread, but without the pocket of a pita bread, this was easy to make and delicious to eat. Either as a side to a meal or as a snack (dipped in some fresh hummus!), I think this bread was the family's favorite recipe of those that I tried.
Best of all, though, when the dinner was all served, I truly felt that my plate represented exactly what the book intended – the variety of colors and flavors represented in that one meal truly provided a lovely mosaic that was as pleasing to the eye as it was to the palate.
Beautiful to look at, easy to follow and deliciously inspired, An Edible Mosaic adds a breath of fresh flair to my cookbook collection, and I can't wait to continue cooking my way through it.