Book Review: Pomegranates and Pine Nuts

Title: Pomegranates and Pine Nuts: A Stunning Collection of Lebanese, Moroccan, and Persian Recipes
Author: Bethany Kehdy
Format: e-ARC from NetGalley
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 4/5

I discovered my love of middle eastern food during college, thanks to a lot of classmates whose family lived in the middle east or who had travelled there for religious reasons. This was an interesting book in that it crosses national boundaries and looks at food as a regional identity, rather than trying to just be Persian or just be Lebanese. In fact, there were foods included that covered even more countries and cultures, including Egyptian food and several dishes that I’m familiar with from the former Soviet Union (e.g. Armenian and Georgian food).

The book was beautifully designed, with lots of photographs, although I found the typeface somewhat difficult to read. (I have terrible vision, so I don’t think this would be an issue for most people, but it was a little frustrating for me.)

The author has a tendency to rename many dishes, which I guess makes sense when you’re highlighting a dish that goes by different names in different countries. But I would sometimes find myself reading about meat “torpedos” and eventually realize that she was talking about kibbeh. Overall, though, I didn’t think that was a bad choice – in fact it would be really great for someone who doesn’t want to worry about trying to pronounce a recipe that they’re feeding their family. The recipes highlighted a pretty wide variety of types of dishes, from the very familiar (tabbouleh and eggplant dish) to the more unusual (labneh, meat pastries, and arabic desserts).

Many of the recipes call for specialized ingredients that you would need to source from ethnic markets or the internet, but I thought the variety and quantity were manageable for anyone who is willing to order spices online.

Meze

  • Spiced Naked Mini-Sausages (homemade case-less sausage with eggs)
  • Ground Lamb and Onion Crescents (think breakfast pastry)
  • Venison and Sour Cherry Nests (using finely shredded phyllo – I’ve seen versions of this with pasta and I think the phyllo would be delicious)
  • Jeweled Rice (my favorite persian dish!)
  • LOTS of salads

Poultry

  • Chicken Basteeya (a sweet and savory pastry – it’s dusted with powdered sugar!)
  • Chicken Spinach Upside-Down Cake (I wish there was a picture of this one)
  • Mandaean Duck Stuffed with Nutty Ginger Rice With Date and Apple Compote
  • Duck Shawarma with Fig Jam

Meat (I feel like I’m in Big Fat Greek Wedding – because poultry isn’t meat? This section is heavy on lamb and veal.)

  • Caramelized Onions Stuffed with Lamb
  • Spiced Lamb Flatbread Pizzas (I’ve had the Armenian version of these – YUM)
  • Quinces Stuffed with Veal and Wheat Berries

Seafood

  • Almond Crusted Scallops
  • Spiced Shrimp and Coconut Rice
  • Blackened Sea Bream (aka Masqouf from Iraq)

Vegetarian

  • Sabich Salad (a salad version of the Sabich Sandwich)
  • Lentil Bulgur and Tamarind Pilaf
  • Mixed Bean and Herb Noodle Soup
  • Slow Cooked Tomato and Fava Bean Stew

Desserts (I love middle eastern desserts more than any other cuisine)

  • Semolina Pancakes
  • Pomegranate and Rose Quark Summer Cake
  • Evaporated Milk Pudding with Crushed Arabic Coffee
  • Saffron Rice Pudding
  • Tahini Chocolate Brioche
  • Turkish Delight

The book ends with basic recipes and tips for sourcing specialized ingredients.

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