Monday, October 20, 2008

Arabesque: Earnest Summation

We had friends over -- he's for McCain, she's for Obama, don't know how that possibly works but they seem happy and we successfully avoided the topic for the entire meal which was a small/ENORMOUS miracle -- and finished the Arabesque experiment last night. 

The highlight: Turkish layered cheese pie, a crispy-soft-salty-cheesy fillo dish, unbearably delicious, which I cut into diamonds and served as an appetizer. Followed by tagine, about which I have nothing new to say so will say nothing.

I made 52 recipes out of Arabesque over the last month.

Worth the Price of the Book: 6
Great: 7
Good: 26
So-So: 10
Flat-out bad: 3

A terrific cookbook, but I have a gripe.

Claudia Roden first became famous for her encyclopedic 1968 Book of Middle Eastern Food, which was reissued a few years ago. A few minutes of cross-referencing reveals that a lot of my favorite recipes from Arabesque previously appeared in that first book. The lamb tagine with dates, gum mastic ice cream, chickpeas with turmeric, spicy shrimp, harira. Granted there are new recipes and some minor revisions of old ones -- but enough to justify buying Arabesque if you already have the Book of Middle Eastern Food?

Short answer: No. 


  1. I'm curious--do you have a tagine? If so, do you feel that it is necessary? Or will a lidded French oven do just fine? If not, do you wish you had one? I don't do a ton of Middle Eastern/African cooking (read: very little), and I don't know whether a tagine would be a reasonable purchase for me.

  2. I don't have a tagine, and just used a plain dutch oven type pot. Could it possibly make a big difference?? Those tagines look like they'd be really hard to store.
    For the record, I've also cooked a lot of Chinese food and don't have a wok. I don't advertise that -- but I guess now I just have.