Matthew Kenney's Mediterranean Cooking: Great Flavors for the American Kitchen

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9780811814430: Matthew Kenney's Mediterranean Cooking: Great Flavors for the American Kitchen

A young American chef's fresh new interpretation of beloved Mediterranean cuisine, Matthew Kenney's Mediterranean Cooking is a masterful blend of tradition, passion, and creativity. Celebrated chef Matthew Kenney opened his restaurant, Matthew's, to instant critical acclaim, including a listing in the Zagat guide as one of the top five Mediterranean restaurants in New York City. Recently, he was named a Rising Star Chef in America by PBS. And now with this seminal new cookbook, he shares his signature style of relaxed Mediterranean cooking with 150 wonderful dishes anyone can prepare at home. Relying on widely available ingredients and simplified cooking techniques, Kenney makes it possible for busy cooks everywhere to enjoy the sensuous culinary traditions of the Mediterranean coastal rim, from the hill towns of Spain and Italy to the sun-baked villages of North Africa. A new classic is born.

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About the Author:

Sam Gugino is a columnist for Wine Spectator and a frequent contributor to the New York Times. He lives in New York city. Visit Sam's Web site at: www.samcooks.com .

Matthew Kenney , author of Matthew Kenney's Mediterranean Cooking, is the chef-owner of Matthew's Mezze, Monzu, Canteen, and his latest restaurant, Commune, all in New York City.

Paul Franz-Moore is a San Francisco-based still-life photographer specializing in food.

Review:

Reviews From:

Metropolitan Home

Bon Appetit

By Julia Moskin

Remember the old days of supermarket produce shopping when tracking down a fresh mango or a bunch of cilantro could be a week-long project? Today, as Americans have become more knowledgeable about food, tropical fruits perfume the air in most markets, and fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and basil are familiar sights.

And as our desire for more intense and exotic tastes continues, the search has moved beyond the produce section. Thanks to chefs like New York's Matthew Kenney, we're discovering an old-world solution to the question of how to keep meals interesting: the creative use of spices. Vivid seasonings like coriander, cumin, cardamom and anise are becoming more common, and old favorites like ginger, paprika, cloves and cinnamon are being used in surprising new ways.

We're quickly learning that whole-roasted, freshly ground spices, freely combined in ways that ignite our palates, can infuse any dish with flavor. Even bland chicken breasts, mild fish fillets, or plain potatoes can be encrusted, scented or otherwise imbued with spice.

Chef Kenney is in the vanguard of this revival. "Freshness is important, but the flavors of my food also come from strong seasoning." At his restaurants, Matthew's, Mezze and Monzu, Kenney cooks the way Jackson Pollock painted: The method looks excessive, but the result is always harmonious. "My food is about layering flavors on, not stripping them down." he says.

When Kenney pulls out his arsenal of spices, we can never be sure what will come of it. A vegetable stew transformed by coriander seeds or a pear dessert warmed up with a spark of black pepper. Odd-sounding combinations like rosemary with strawberries turn out brilliantly in his confident hands.

Kenney complements his alluring cuisine with lemon zest, honey, capers, nuts and a whole gardenful of herbs and fresh ginger, but it is his dedication to spices that sets him apart. Roasting and grinding the spices is a daily task for his kitchen staff, but he wouldn't have it any other way. Fresh flavor isn't the only concern; commercial spices are often milled to a too-fine powder, which affects the outcome of the dish.

"I love how fresh, coarsely ground spices break up the way the flavor hits your palate—the texture of food is also very important to me," says Kenney, who recalls his training in French cuisine as a process in which smoothness was always the goal. "We were always filleting and pureeing, straining and clarifying, making the food as soft and refined as possible." Today, intensity and boldness hold more appeal for most people. And any home cook can find fresh spices at ethnic markets or through mail order. With an oven for toasting and a coffee grinder, these flavors are easy to replicate.

There are no rules in Kenney's realm. Warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, cloves and ginger usually say dessert, but Kenney is just as likely to use them to perfume lamb shanks or pan-roasted carrots. Delicate, licorice-flavored anise can season a sweet-hot glaze for roast duck, can mix with warm olive oil to definitively reinvent mashed potatoes, or can lighten a citrusy almond cake. Cardamom's woody quality—it's redolent of both cedar and sandalwood—begins a chain of associations in Kenney's mind that ends with forest mushrooms. The result is an immensely satisfying flatbread with wild mushrooms, cardamom and hazelnuts.

Are there any exotic new spices we should be on the lookout for? "Well," Kenney says with a dreamy expression that signals a new dish in the making, "I haven't really begun to think seriously about salt yet."


The best of the most recent crop [of cookbooks] take you into an alternative reality. Matthew Kenney, the celebrated chef-owner of three Manhattan restaurants—Matthew's Mezze and Monzu—has created, along with Sam Gugino, a welcoming little book on Mediterranean Cooking. Although small in format, the book packs a punch with attractive typography and inviting, not-too-precious food photography (none of that glistening, too-beautiful-to-cook look here). Kenney's focus is what he calls Mediterranean Rim cooking, including Egypt, Turkey, and Algeria. By the time I finished perusing the book, it was punctuated with Post-its that marked recipes I wanted to try—from a simple chilled chickpea, tomato and yogurt soup to the more ambitious spicy shrimp paella with clams and fresh fava beans.

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