Goodcooking.com Cookbook Review---



 

The Mediterranean Prescription
306 pages; Hardcover
By Angelo Acquista, M.D. w/ Laurie Anne Vandermolen
Ballantine Books NY, NY, 2006
Reviewed by, Chef John Vyhnanek, June 2006

The Mediterranean Prescription by Angelo Acquista, M.D. and with Laurie Anne Vandermolen is not your average Diet/Cookbook. I’ve reviewed many books of this style lately and have found many of them to be well written and informative. Most base their principles on the lifestyle of the Mediterranean and the items eaten in the region. It’s all the current belief that this “lifestyle” is good for you. If you have ever traveled to the region, you know that people do a lot of walking, especially in the evening after dinner. I remember being in Verona, Italy and being amazed by the crowds of people strolling about in the street at 9 o’clock at night. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, was it a holiday, a street fair? No it wasn’t either, it was the evening walk! This walking is only part of the equation, the olive oil, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables and the absence of processed and the dreaded fast food restaurants serving foods high in saturated fats may be others.

Dr. Acquista starts you on your way to a new you through a 2 week weight loss stage where you can see some immediate results, and follows that with the maintenance stage which is the most important part of the plan. There are 12 guiding principles such as general good eating habits of eating fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish and limiting red meats. There is a lot to read on these subjects and much good information to absorb. There are meal plans, suggestions on making healthy choices and even a section devoted to how to eat out while on the plan.

Halfway through the book things get interesting when the recipes appear. They are written by Dr. Aquista's Sicilian mother and by chefs from some of New York’s top Italian restaurants such as Cipriani, Serafina, Piccolo’s Restaurant and Sandro’s. The Caponata on page 162, was delicious, although I add golden raisins and balsamic vinegar in my recipe. The Chicken Cacciatore on page 203, from the Cipriani was great but be sure you use a really good quality beef stock and follow the recipe with no changes! The Spaghetti with Olive Oil and Scallions on page 174 was simple and plain, and was perfect with the Cacciatore.

The last chapters, Appendix A through D offer some pretty serious information about cancer, heart disease and other maladies, information about micronutrients, eating foods with bright colors and charts of foods and their calorie and fat contents. Appendix A might just might scare you into trying the plan. Good Cooking likes the book and feels that you will learn something from it. I would recommend asking your doctor if it is right for you, and if the answer is yes, then go for it. Don’t forget all the great recipes that you’ll get too!


Caponata

Serves 4

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes or canned crushed tomatoes 
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped 
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
20 imported black olives, pitted and chopped 
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram 
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

In a large nonstick frying pan, over medium-high heat, sauté the eggplant in the oil for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the olives, capers, parsley, marjoram, and vinegar. Turn the caponata into a large bowl; cover and let sit for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

Chicken Cacciatore

This delicious recipe is from Cipriani, New York.

Serves 6

6 chicken breasts and/or legs, skin removed 
Salt
Black pepper
Flour for dredging, plus 1 tablespoon 
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped 
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 pound white or shiitake mushrooms, chopped 
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary 
3 plum tomatoes, diced
1 cup white wine 
1 cup beef stock

Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Dredge seasoned chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Heat 4 tablespoons oil over medium heat and cook chicken in batches until golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken and wipe pan clean with paper towels. Add remaining oil, onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms, and garlic to pan. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in herbs and tomatoes. Turn up heat and add wine. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over vegetables. Stir to combine thoroughly and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add stock and cook, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes. Return chicken to pan and spoon some of the vegetable mixture over the chicken. Simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes, then turn chicken and simmer 15 minutes more.

Spaghetti with Olive Oil and Scallions 

Serves 2-4

1/2 pound spaghetti
5 tablespoons olive oil 
1 bunch scallions
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta. While pasta is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons oil in large skillet and sauté scallions, salt and red pepper flakes over low-medium heat for 4-5 minutes, covered, watching that scallions don't burn (may add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to prevent burning). Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup water. Add pasta and reserved water to skillet with scallion mixture and cook 30 40 seconds on high heat. Remove from heat and add remaining oil. Sprinkle with cheese.