October 27, 2003 | Ask Gael
Another cookbook? Who needs it?

        I defy a passionate cook (or a passionate cookbook collector) to resist The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, Paula Wolfert’s newest (Wiley; $34.95). It looks almost edible: the cover with its spilled seeds of the pomegranate, the apple Eve probably passed on to Adam, the sensuous photographs. As all her pals know, the woman is a fanatic, a passionate pilgrim to faraway kitchens no matter how primitive, a champion of indigenous ingredients. But authenticity is never enough for Paula. If it isn’t delicious, it isn’t in her books. And she’s there, too, urging you on, passing along little tricks, enticing you to the stove. I can’t wait to taste salmon poached in olive oil with rhubarb, cucumber, and mint salad, or the sesame-studded tomato jam. Her slow-cooked duck with olives has the crisp skin and melting interior of a confit but needs no time to mellow. And word on the pastry circuit is that her classic canelés de Bordeaux—lush custard inside a burnt-sugar shell—are a revelation.