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Cooking from the Heart of Spain: Food of La Mancha    by Janet Mendel order for
Cooking from the Heart of Spain
by Janet Mendel
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

There may be no photographs in this wonderful new cookbook but the wealth of marvelous and mouthwatering recipes more than makes up for it. Written by expatriate Janet Mendel, Cooking from the Heart of Spain is chock full of the dishes that have helped make her sojourn of forty years in Spain so enjoyable and delicious.

Spain's cuisine is a mixture of different cultures. The Arabs brought their cooking with them when they became a part of Spain, as did the Jews and the Christians. Living side by side, it makes sense that their foods would mingle to create unique dishes. Foods from the New World completed the picture and created a kitchen that today boasts of old recipes tempered by modern chefs, who experiment constantly to bring the foods of yesterday up to today's desires. One example is saffron ice cream using an ingredient grown in profusion in Spain.

As with most cookbooks, this one starts as a menu would, with Tapas, Starters and Salads: Crisp-Fried Turnovers with Tuna filling; Double Eggs; Garlicky Salt Cod Dip; Bean Salad with Chorizo; Lemon Salad with Shrimp. Just reading these recipes makes me reach for my apron and whisk. Each recipe is headed by information about the dish, either where it comes from or the author's first awareness of the dish, along with good tips to make it to perfection.

The menu continues through all the courses imaginable, along with mouthwatering recipes to create the dishes in your own home kitchen. From Thyme-Marinated Olives to Hot Chocolate, Cooking from the Heart of Spain offers delectable multi-course feasts. Incidentally, La Mancha is the heart of Spain and it must be a bit of heaven on earth to live there and be able to eat the foods presented in this great new cookbook every day.

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