Famed Chef And Cookbook Author Paula Wolfert: New Biography Features Her Recipes

11 Dec 2017

Emily Kaiser Thelinspeaks on a new biography of famed chef and cookbook author Paula Wolfert. Itwas recently published, featuring some of her delicious recipes.

Paula Wolferthas been called the Julia Child of Mediterranean food in America. A wonderful name.

Thelin: O yes, she is an interesting personality. She once spoke eight languages and could tell how a piece of bread was leavened with one bite. Thanks to her detailed writing, top chefs in the U.S. say she taught them to treasure flavours from the Mediterranean.

Why did you decide to write her biography?

Thelin: You know Paula Wolfort is ill now, has problems with memory. That’s whywe try to capture Wolfert’s memories and recipes while she still could.We published them in Unforgettable: The Bold Flavours of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life.

You wereWolfert’s editor and now became her biographer. It was quite natural for you, wasn’t it?

Thelin: Yes, and my great wish was to publish the book with her famous recipes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy.


Thelin: About a dozen publishers told me her time passed but I felt her accomplishments were too important to not have a book. So with the support of the photographer on the book Eric Wolfinger, he suggested we just publish it ourselves and use Kickstarter to raise the money — which allowed us to publish it.

Did she recall her recipes?

Thelin: We helped her recall in a very interesting way. We asked her to do certain, very easy prep steps like this incredible eggplant relish that her grandmother taught her, which involves squeezing the eggplants between her hands. And that was an incredible moment because while she was standing there talking to me and saying: “I don’t remember anything about this dish,” but clearly her hands showed an incredible familiarity with the prep steps.

Her cookbooks assume a high degree of cooking experience.

Thelin: O yes.Her biggest audience were professional chefs and she basically wrote her books for them. I wanted to let anybody cook these. Obviously couscous is one of the most difficult recipes in the book.

Can you describe some of her most accessible recipes for us to discover the wonderful flavours of them?

Thelin: It would be great. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the incredible layered and truly unforgettable flavours of the best of her recipes.

Here are recommendation for a post-Thanksgiving antidote

The cracked green olive relish, which is from southeastern Turkey, is a terrific palate cleanser and uses wonderful fall foods like pomegranate seeds. You just have to be careful making it because you’ll never want to stop making it.

Can you recommend some of her relish recipes as well?

Thelin: I would willingly give some. Try, for example,Cracked Green Olive, Walnut, and Pomegranate Relish.

This incredible recipe is from AyferUnsal, an acclaimed Turkish food journalist and gifted cook from Gaziantep and one of Paula’s closest friends. It combines ingredients you would never expect to go together in such perfect balance: cracked green olives, crunchy walnuts, tangy pomegranate seeds, and zingy lemon juice. It is a lovely accompaniment to grilled fish or meat, Oven-Steamed Salmon or melon.


8 ounces (225 g) cracked green olives, pitted, rinsed, and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup (90 g) walnuts, finely chopped by hand

2 green onions, white and light green parts, minced

1/4 cup (10 g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/8 teaspoon mild red pepper flakes, preferably Aleppo or Marash, or more to taste

2 teaspoons pomegranate concentrate or molasses

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (85 g) fresh or thawed frozen pomegranate seeds

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir to mix well. The relish can be served the same day it is made. However, if covered and refrigerated for 1 to 2 days, it will mature and develop peak flavour. Bring to room temperature before serving.


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