“The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen: 80 Authentic, Healthy Recipes Made Quick and Easy for Everyday Cooking.” By Samantha Ferraro. Page Street Publishing. $21.99

Although Samantha Ferraro has blogged at “The Little Ferraro Kitchen” for four years, she says the chance to write a cookbook was a dream come true. Her first cookbook, “The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen: 80 Authentic, Healthy Recipes Made Quick and Easy for Everyday Cooking,” was published last July.

That’s a good thing for home cooks as despite our technological age – screens with food websites disseminate recipes far and wide 24 hours a day – for many cooks, the attraction to old-fashioned ink-and-paper cookbooks remains. Perhaps the familiarity, comfort and slow pace of perusing pages of tried-and-true recipes outweigh the often overwhelming stream of online recipes.

My own collection of cookbooks, many of which were gifts from loved ones, brings a warm vibe to my kitchen. Many contain handwritten notes and suggestions alongside the recipes. After spending some time reading and cooking from “The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen,” I think it could join my assortment of go-to cookbooks.

The recipes are simple and healthy. The key to cooking these recipes quickly and easily during the week after a hectic work day is to read the introductory section on Mediterranean Pantry Staples beforehand. There, Ferraro lists the ingredients her collection of recipes calls for that will make the subtitle adjectives of the cookbook chapters – “fast,” “effortless,” “easy” – true. I had to shop for/create a few spices and spice mixtures, but they gave the dishes unique, specific flavors, so I was glad I had. Many recipes include a tip box that gives substitutions for less common ingredients such as labneh and halloumi cheese, as well as other recommendations.

“The Weeknight Mediterranean Kitchen” has six chapters: Appetizers and Mezze; The Main Meal; Soups and Salads; Vegetables, Grains and Pulses; Sauces, Dips and Spreads; and lastly, Sweets and Sips. The recipe we chose to test, always a family deliberation, was Mediterranean Ratatouille with Pistachio Pesto. The pistachio pesto was definitely a big part of the attraction, and it proved to be as delicious as we imagined. Though we have plenty of fresh mint in our garden, we decided to omit that herb when we made this recipe, preferring a stronger basil flavor. The recipe calls for a couple Mediterranean spices that we had never used before, namely za’atar and Aleppo pepper. Za’atar is actually a mixture of dried spices – sumac, thyme, oregano and sesame seeds. Since over a half-dozen recipes in the cookbook call for za’atar, I made a jar of it to keep in stock.


Making ratatouille from oven-baked vegetables was, for me, an unfamiliar method; previously, I’ve made ratatouille on the stovetop. As it turns out, we much preferred this baked version. Also, the unusual spices that the recipe required turned traditional ratatouille on its head. You can use the flavorful pistachio pesto to garnish the vegetables or you can serve it the two components with crusty bread, as Ferraro suggests. Our family spread the pesto on whole wheat tortillas, spooned the ratatouille on top and wrapped it like a burrito. This method of serving gave us enough leftover pistachio pesto to add to another meal.

Samantha Ferraro may have a little kitchen – note the name of her blog – but judging by the recipe we tested, her recipes have big flavors.



2 pounds green zucchini sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

1 sweet onion, sliced thin


1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch strips

1 fennel bulb, core removed and sliced into 1/2-inch strips

8 ounces cherry tomatoes

1 whole garlic head, cut in half

2 teaspoons dried mint


1 1/2 teaspoons za’atar

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt, as needed

Olive oil, as needed

Chopped pistachios, for garnish



6 ounces shelled pistachios

2 ounces grated Parmesan

1/2 cup olive oil

1 lemon, zest and juice

Small bunch fresh mint, stems removed


Small bunch fresh basil, stems removed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the zucchini, onion, eggplant, peppers, fennel, tomatoes and halved garlic head with the dried mint, za’atar, Aleppo pepper, garlic powder, salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Arrange the vegetables in an even single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

To make pesto, add the pistachios, Parmesan, oil, lemon zest and juice, mint and basil to a food processor and blend until the desired consistency.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and garnish with pistachios and pistachio pesto.

The pistachio pesto will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or you can always freeze it for even later use.

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