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For forty years, American-born freelance journalist and award-winning cookbook author Janet Mendel has made her home in Spain. Becoming a "local" has provided Mendel with the unique opportunity to explore the authentic foods of her adopted country, and to bring the best recipes to American kitchens. Now, in "Cooking from the Heart of Spain," she turns her attention to the region of La Mancha.
Mendel has taken part in the harvesting of saffron, wine grapes, and garlic. She has made marzipan in Toledo, joined in a partridge shoot, and prepared trout caught fresh from the streams in Cuenca. She tells stories of artisanal cheesemakers and wine producers. Her own home in an olive grove gives her special insight into world-class Spanish olive oil.
"Cooking from the Heart of Spain" features traditional foods from the country's heartland, a region of vineyards, olive groves, and wheat fields. From here come Spain's most famous products -- Manchego cheese, saffron, serrano ham, and olive oil. These ingredients, along with its rich and diverse Moorish and Sephardic heritages, give Manchegan cooking an air of refinement and delicate complexity beyond its sturdy simplicity.
The recipes in "Cooking from the Heart of Spain" include simple pisto, a medley of summer vegetables sauteed in olive oil; lamb stuffed with spinach and pine nuts; a robust peasant garlic soup; and a delightfully subtle saffron ice cream. Mendel also includes sophisticated dishes such as cheese and ham flan and partridge braised in wine sauce, as well as fun food, such as "fried milk," a sweet custard with a crisp-fried exterior. Oh, yes -- and Madrid tapas too.
Laced with quotes from Cervantes' "Don Quixote" -- which had lots to say about the food of La Mancha -- Janet Mendels cookbook provides recipes for delicious dishes, both traditional and modern.
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