August 12, 2014
Under the Shade of Olive Trees by Merijn Tol
My rating: 3 of 5 spoons
The title is what first drew me to this book. Doesn't it make you want to pack you bags and go exploring other countries?! I couldn't wait to start cooking! Unfortunately, that's where I ran into problems. Many of the recipes in this book contain ingredients that aren't easily obtained--at least not where I'm at. Many of these ingredients I'd never even heard of! Freekeh, special lamb sausages, "grains of paradise", "gum mastic pieces or meska horra"...the list goes on. I finally settled on making "Our Own Arabian Flatbread" using the pita roll instructions. I love flatbread, and have made various kinds over the years. I was not impressed with this one. The recipe called for too little water, but that was easily fixed. I cooked them on my pizza stone as directed at the proper temperature, and they just didn't cook well. It said cook two minutes until they bulge and turn light brown. It took 5-7 minutes for them to brown, and then they were either too chewy, or too brittle. I've made pita bread many times with great results, but I never could get a single, decent pita from this recipe. Very disappointing!
I really wanted to love this book and cook many, many recipes. Unfortunately, there just aren't that many recipes that are a good fit for my family, and my desire to try them dropped dramatically after the poor outcome of what should have been one of the simplest recipes in the book.
On the plus side, there's some great information in this book (though the "Basic Arabian Glossary is a joke with only seven words!), including "How to enjoy an effortless festive Arabic meal at home" "Music to accompany a wonderful Arabian dinner party", Arabia menus, listings for grocery stores (both physical and online) and more. This could be a great book for people with access to Arabic ingredients, and love for Arabian food, it just wasn't a good fit for me.
I received a copy of this book from Abrams books for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.