Saturday, October 29, 2016


Title:  Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery and Cafe
Author:  Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick
Publication Information:  Ten Speed Press. 2016. 264 pages.
ISBN:  1607749181 / 978-1607749189

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Beginning at 8 am, people from all walks of life pass through our door to gather, eat, and restore."

Favorite Quote:  "We believe in learning the rules before we break them, so we study technique, ingredients, and recipes constantly."

The word sofra in Turkish means a table made ready for eating a meal. The authors expand that meaning to capture everything about the about a meal, including the feeling of warmth and hospitality that goes along with a meal lovingly offered. Sofra Bakery and Cafe opened in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008, and it offers the food of Turkey, Lebanon and Greece with the owner's own twist on the flavor combinations.

This book offers up the recipes behind some of the Sofra favorites as well as new adventures for the home cook to try. The book's organization reflects its bakery origins; this is not a composite book on middle eastern cooking. It is more focused on cafe offerings - breakfast, meze, flatbreads, savory pies, cookies and confections, specialty pastries and desserts, and beverages. The book also includes a chapter on the pantry accompaniments - jams, spices, pickles, etc. - that might accompany or become a part of its menu offerings. Finally, the book includes a helpful glossary describing ingredients that may be new to home cooks and possible resources where a home cook may be able to purchase these ingredients.

The book itself is beautiful and easy to navigate. The hardcover edition is printed on lovely, thick paper. Although not every recipe includes a photograph, the matte-finish photographs included are vibrant and appetizing. The individual section begins with a list of recipes, and an index provides further ability to easy locate a recipe. The recipes themselves are laid out clearly over one to two pages. The titles are set off clearly by font; the ingredient list is clearly printed on one side; and the directions are laid out in neatly separated paragraphs. Each recipe also begins with a chef's note, which includes tips on recipe pairings or seasonal substitutions.

The recipes themselves are very, very ingredient centered. You might say, well, all recipes are. However, many of these recipes call for ingredients that may not be readily available in many markets. Just the first couple of recipes call for ingredients such as Maras peppers, hawayej, kataifi pastry, barrel-aged Greek feta, labne, and Spanish Calasparra rice. The glossary does provide resources where certain ingredients specific to the cuisine may be ordered; a few descriptions include substitutions but not many. Also, somehow, I think the result will likely not be the same without the authentic ingredients. As such, while I appreciate the recipes and they sound delicious, I am likely to try some recipes when I can locally find the ingredients.

Another aspect that makes these recipes a "sometimes treat" is the richness of the ingredients. The book does not state nutritional information. However, when a recipe serving nine calls for 2 sticks of butter and 8 ounces of cream cheese, you can hazard a guess at the luxuriant nature of that dish. Again, the recipes sound delicious, but that fact will ensure that I save most of them for special occasions. A baker's side note:  The ingredient amounts in this book even for baked goods are given by volume, not weight. Adjust accordingly.

Some of the recipes are also fairly simple, in that an experienced cook really does not need a recipe for the dish. For example, how do you think you make hot pepper labne, whipped feta with sweet and hot peppers, and whipped goat cheese with almonds and golden raisins? The entire section on flat breads contains two dough recipes - Yulfka dough and Za'atar bread. The remaining recipes are a variety of toppings for that dough. In other words, master the dough, and the toppings are up to your imagination.

Overall, the book is beautiful, and, if I am in the Boston area, I will make sure that Sofra Bakery is a place I stop and treat myself. However, I am not sure the recipes will find themselves into my regular cooking repertoire.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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