Cookbook Review: Around the Table with the Catholic Foodie: Middle Eastern Cuisine

When I met him at the Catholic Writers Guild Conference earlier this summer, cookbook author, podcaster and contributor Jeff Young told me that he purposely creates his recipes to feed large groups of people–that way, you’ll want to share.

Around-the-Table-with-The-Catholic-FoodieYou’ll definitely want to share the meals you make from the recipes in his cookbook, Around the Table with the Catholic Foodie: Middle Eastern Cuisine.

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of “Middle Eastern Cuisine.” Most of the ingredients in Jeff’s recipes are easy to find. One spice that might be more difficult to get locally is sumac, but you can get that online. I was fortunate to find it in a local Turkish market.

When you make Jeff’s recipes, you’ll be using real foods: fresh ingredients and no chemical substitutes. It’s a healthier way to eat, and I guarantee you that it’s more delicious too. I’ve followed Jeff’s blog for years; I think I found it when I was looking for a jambalaya recipe, but you’ll find much more than Louisiana cooking at his site. Soups, breads, pizza–it’s all there.

Jeff’s directions are clear, and he includes plenty of tips on working with certain ingredients and mixing your own spice blends. But one of my favorite things about this cookbook is the story that goes with each recipe. Stories are part of the fun around the dinner table, and they’re part of the fun of this cookbook as well. Many of these Middle-Eastern recipes originated in the Holy Land, and the first two chapters of the book are all about the family table, food in the Bible and “where food meets faith.” Don’t skip these just to get to the recipes!

sesame tahini cookies (4) FII’ve made several recipes from this cookbook so far:

  • Oven-Baked Salmon (3-ingredient easy and completely delicious)
  • Sesame Tahini Paste Cookies (pictured above)
  • Fish with Pistachios and Dill
  • Crispy Roasted Potatoes
  • Parsley Potatoes
  • Carrots with Cumin
  • Rice Pilaf
  • Lamb-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
  • Israeli Chopped Salad

Some of these recipes have made it into the regular rotation around here. All of them have been excellent, and I have a few more recipes in my meal plan for the coming weeks. (I even planted a grape vine this spring so I could get grape leaves to make one of the recipes, but I don’t have quite enough leaves to do this yet.)

Finally, I’ve given two copies of this cookbook as gifts to people I love who love cooking and trying new flavors. I’m not done trying recipes from this book and I’m also not done purchasing it as a gift.

Note: Your purchase of this cookbook through my Amazon affiliate link helps feed my cookbook habit. Thank you!

I Think I Need to Give This Cookbook Away

Father Leo Patalinghug’s book Grace Before Meals is much more than a cookbook. Yes, there are recipes–interesting ones! But more important than that, there is encouragement. And that’s why I’ll probably be giving away my copy.

Last night we had dinner guests: a mom and her little boy. Her husband works second shift, and I lost count of how many times she told me how nice it was to enjoy a family dinner. We had spaghetti, nothing fancy, but she said that she doesn’t do a whole lot of cooking when it’s just her and her son.

I want to find a way to tell her that she needs to make a point of having a family mealtime even if the whole family can’t be there. No matter how simple the meal–whether it’s a bowl of Cheerios or (shudder) Spaghetti-Os or a gourmet treat, where two or more are gathered for a meal, it’s a family meal. You’re all together at the table. Ideally, the TV is off. You give thanks for the food and the time to be together, and you enjoy your food.

I will say that everyone behaved themselves for company. Middle Sister refrained from regaling us with some disgusting tale in the middle of the meal. (She has a knack for making everyone else lose their appetites.) Little Brother showed our guest how to use the rotary cheese grater. That was fun for the boys, who delighted in making mountains of Romano.

But I want to encourage our dinner guest to have family mealtime. Her son is little now, and she’s with him a lot, so it might not seem so important to her. But she does notice something missing–for her. And as her little boy grows up, she will want him to know what family dinnertime is all about. She will want him to be nourished, not just by the food, but by the shared prayer, conversation, and love at the table. She will want him to have what she is missing now.

I hope Father Leo’s cookbook will help her get there, and that it’s not rude of me to offer it.