Question: what do you get when a food stylist writes a cookbook?
Answer: a book with lots of pictures.
Question: what do you get when a marvelously talented food stylist, who is also a wonderful cook[ trained by two generations of aunts and mothers and grandmothers], writes a cookbook?
Answer: oh, gee. Not simple to say. First of all, this book is so beautiful you might want it on your coffee table. The food styling and photography here is unsurpassed. Simply the best.
Or, or, you can keep this book in the kitchen and cook from it. Year round, one season after the other. Using elements from the farm, the sea, and the hunt.
Author Susie Theodorou is from a Greek Cypriot by family. Of course, she was born and grew up in London. She learned cooking from her mom and grandmom and a bevy of aunts. The family cooked meals based on their Mediterranean heritage. Cooking authentic in both the ingredients and care.
Professionally, Annie left the kitchen for the world of photo shoots. She became a food stylist and on her webpage, www.susietheodorou.com, you can see the award-winning work she had done for authors you know: Andrew Weil, Annie Bell, Gordon Ramsey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jamie Dean, Jean-George, Sarabeth, Dean Cowin, and Padma Laksma. You have been looking at her pictures for years. Years.
Now, Susie has expanded out, writing about the Mediterranean style of food. Yes, that Mediterranean diet that seems to never go away. And it should not. The Mediterranean diet is now established to be wise and life-extending. Susie begins with an expansion on the history and traditions of the Mediterranean diet. The core features of the diet include olive oil, garlic and onion and herbs, bread, dairy [cheese and yogurt], not too much meat [just enough to add flavor], and loads of shellfish and fish.
Why should you buy this book? The answer is there in the first page of recipes and the accompanying photo:
That’s hummus, real hummus, topped with preserved lemon, cucumber and sesame. Twenty years ago, you could not find hummus in a store. Now, there is an aisle of hummus containers in every one of our stores. In all flavors, including of course chipotle. Susie finds all the commercial brands too garlicy, too artificial. In that London kitchen back home, sometimes her mom made hummus with, get his, no garlic.
Yes, none. The trick to authenticity is to have silky, subtle hummus topped with any of several combinations Susie presents. Beyond the preserved lemon and cucumber example, consider:
Olives, tomatoes and rosemary
Pickled red onion
Or, hummus topped onto blades of gem lettuce
Each of these is presented with a “make-me-now” picture that tugs at your heart. And your tummy.
That style of recipe presentations is continued when it comes to cured meats and fresh cheese. How to serve fresh cheese? Why, you can use a surprise topping that is simple, healthy and visually appealing:
Sweet peas and tarragon
Heritage tomato and oregano
Courgette and mint
Escarole and chili flakes
Pan-fried black olives and rosemary
Peach and basil
Pomegranate and pistachio
Figs, thyme and honey
Mediterranean unfolds more happiness in the chapters and pages that follow. Grains, pastas, meats, fish, pizzas, and slow cooked dishes appear complete with more great pictures. You’ll find one recipe after another that will dazzle you. My favorite? A Venetian spring risotto with scallion, spinach, peas and asparagus. I can’t make it now — it’s October for God’s sake. But, I do have a calendar on my computer and I can make appointments for myself.
Do this. Get Mediterranean. Scan the book. Open up your calendar and make your schedule for the next year. Because this is a book to fill your year. And your tummy.
Beautiful and delicious, Mediterranean is a tour de force. A treat for all your senses, starting with your eyes.