By Diana Farr Louis & June Marinos
I. B. Tauris, $28.00, 272 pages

Exploring the cuisine and culture of the Ionian Islands, Prospero’s Kitchen: Island Cooking of Greece offers more than 150 recipes to bring the flavor of the Mediterranean into your kitchen. In addition to providing easy-to-follow instructions on how to prepare each dish, this unassuming book takes readers through the history and geography of the islands, explaining the background and cultural significance of each recipe.

It may be odd to call a cookbook a good read, but this one contains so much information about the Ionian Islands, readers may find themselves learning as much about the olive trade as they do about preparing octopus pie. The recipes are nothing if not unique; “Cheese Pie without Trousers” and “Pickled Octopus” are two of the more unusual, and they reflect each island’s diverse cultural heritage. Greek spoonsweets, Venetian pasticcio, and English pudding all find places in the one-of-a-kind cuisine of this region. Despite their uncommon ingredients and diverse histories, the recipes are simple to execute and have delicious results. This is an excellent book for the curious cook.

Each dish has its own story — a complex mixture of specific geographical characteristics, historical influences, religious or ceremonial functions, and social circumstances.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Goss