It took me longer than I would’ve liked to write this review. Part of me felt like I gushed over it so much on Instagram that you may not even need a longer version of my sticky sweet love song to this book. As time went on, and the holidays approached, I found myself suggesting it as a gift over and over again. That made me think that maybe, just maybe, it was worth taking a few moments to explain to you just why I love this book so much. I cooked out of this book for almost two weeks. I essentially made my meal plans from its pages. It was a delicious 14 days.

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I am a big fan of the work of both Diane Sanfilippo and Caitlin Weeks. Admittedly, I was less familiar with Caitlin’s husband, Chef Nabil Boumrar. When I started to hear the chatter of their upcoming collaboration, what would be Mediterranean Paleo Cooking, I was already excited. As time went on, photos started making their way around the inter webs of some of what we could expect to see. Apricot Ice Cream, hearty stews, orange and rose water pancakes. Just craziness. As if the food porn wasn’t enough tot intrigue me, the more I learned about the book and it’s authors, the more I realized what a unique perspective it was going to have. Nabil – A professional chef, and native of North Africa. Caitlin – A Nutrition Consultant and cookbook author. Diane – A nutrition consultant meets cookbook author, graphic designer, food photographer, infographic-er. This was not going to be the same old cookbook. It’s a trifecta. A trifecta that got me to preorder a cookbook for the first time…ever.

Let’s be real for a sec. We can do that. I feel like we’re at that place in our relationship where we can be candid. Cookbooks can be really disappointing. Especially ones you look forward to.  Far too often, there are a few great looking recipes, and you crack it open only to find that those few good recipes were the only ones that intrigued you. Kind of like when the previews to a movie are completely hilarious….because those were the only funny bits in the whole damn thing. Now you’ve just wasted $15 and two hours.  I find this to be especially true with some of the ‘Paleo’ or ‘Primal’ cookbooks out there.  I have a few on my bookshelf that I don’t even flip through anymore.  They have great covers. A few things that I like. The rest are all either not really what I expect from a Paleo book (i.e. pretty much not even kind of what I consider ‘paleo), or straight up boring. It’s hard to find a unique point of view or new flavor profiles. How many different ways can I make mayonnaise or banana-almond-flour bread?  They also tend to, too often in my humble opinion, be merely a collection of substitution recipes. Ways to remake processed or glutenful foods into ‘better’ versions. You don’t get to see recipes that are excellent on there own and just so happen to meet the criteria to be called paleo. 

I’m going to make a pretty big statement here so buckle up.

Mediterranean Paleo Cooking is my favorite paleo cookbook on my bookshelf.

I know. That’s a lot. It’s a little aggressive and maybe too forward. You’re not supposed to come on that strong. I can’t help it, though. I just friggin love this book. Here’s why.

 

This thing is gosh darn gorgeous.  The layout is extremely easy to navigate and the recipes easy to follow. The photographs are enough to make you want to lick the pages instead of taking the few minutes to cook the thing. The stuff that you see in the pages? That’s pretty much how it turns out when you try and do it. Few things are worse than a plate of perfection on the page and your result is a hot mess looking like it was made by bears.

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Harissa Spiced wings in the book…

Harissa Spiced wings. That's something different for you. Move over, Buffalo.

My Harissa Spiced wings. Not too shabby for an amateur iPhone photographer.

As for the recipes? Aside from every single thing that I made out of it being absurdly delicious, it’s a whole new kind of cookbook. They don’t just give you a recipe and that’s that. They give you the recipe, plus ‘Nutritionist notes’,  ”Chefs notes’ , and substitutions that can be made for nut-free, low carb, AIP, or no FODMAP versions.

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Cooking equipment and the paleo swaps for common ingredients. All in one place.

 

The nutritionist notes explain to you some of the ‘whys’ behind the food. Some benefits that certain ingredients offer. Not something you generally see beyond those stereotypical ‘what is paleo?’ pages.

The chef’s notes might be my favorite bit. They teach you how to think like a chef. How to make substitutions with what you have. Don’t have this? OK try this. Don’t want to go out and buy orange blossom water? It’s cool, you can use orange zest instead. It turns your brain on and makes you think in a way that allows you to step away from the recipe and start creating on your own.

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This book not only resulted in delicious meals from its pages, but offered up so much inspiration for my own cooking. Putting Herbs de Provence into anything, let alone biscuits, is not something that would’ve crossed my mind. I’ve never roasted a whole duck or fish before. I’ve certainly never use za’atar before.  For those of us who have a little bit of experience in the kitchen but are feeling uninspired, this cookbook wakes those creative sparks right back up by letting you try some new things in an easy, approachable way.

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Let’s talk about pizza crust. Ok. I’m not going to lie. A lot of paleo pizza crust blows. It really does. It might taste fine, but it doesn’t hold its shape, or it’s dry, or it’s full of all this weird shit that you don’t even want to eat, or you have to go out and buy 45 new kinds of flour. In MPC, not only do they have an amazing pizza crust recipe, but they give you MULTIPLE versions based on a whole range of dietary needs. No nuts? OK. Low carb? Sure. This is a theme that comes up on virtually every recipe and part of why I love the book so much. I made the low carb version with an almond flour base. It. Was. Bomb. I mean, seriously. I don’t have a pizza stone, so as per the suggestion in the book, used a parchment paper lined cast-iron skillet. My breakfast pizza (with prosciutto, egg, arugula, and black pepper), was out of this world. I could actually cut slices of this thing and pick them up and eat them with my hands like an American. None of that silly knife-and-fork nonsense that a flimsy crust focus upon you. I’ve never. EVER. Seen more than one pizza crust in a book. Half of the time they have weird ass flours that I’ll never use again so I don’t even bother. There’s no way that you don’t have the ingredients for at least one of these pizzas already in your pantry.

For your food-porn pleasure, here are a few more things from MPC. None of them were hard to make and all of them turned out great. Even the burgers. BURGERS! How creative can you even get with a burger? Very, apparently.

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I really can’t recommend this book enough. I’ve been raving about it since it arrived at my doorstep (on release day, duh). Would I give this book to someone who just bought their first skillet? Maybe not. Then again, even for a brand new home cook, the chef’s notes will really help you develop your culinary creativity and at the very least inspire you beyond pan seared chicken breast.  Sure, there are some things that might scare someone new to cumin. Sour salt? Huh? Then again, there are some dishes that are almost shockingly simple. The lamb tajine, for example, called for all of five ingredients. I kept going back to the recipe thinking, ‘no way am I not forgetting something.’. Alas, when that very very simple dish was finally in my mouth, my brain about near broke. This was the easiest thing I had made, and quite frankly may have been the overall favorite. So I take it back. This book just might be for everyone.

I cooked out of this thing for two weeks and each and every thing that I made was a winner. It’s a great cookbook for people who like being in the kitchen  – paleo or not.  It could’ve just been called ‘Mediterranean Cooking”.  It’s not a book filled with recipes that have been ‘paleo-ified’. It’s just a book filled with great recipes.