This grew out of a British TV series that doesn't turn very happily into a book. Roden, author of the splendid A Book of Middle Eastern Food (1972), is magnificently qualified to cook her way from North Africa, Spain, Provence, and Italy to Greece, Turkey, the nearby Arab lands, and her native Egypt. In about 240 recipes of the informal British stripe, she selects both obvious highlights--bouillabaisse or Moroccan lamb tagine--and less familiar dishes like Spanish chickpea-spinach soup thickened with a bread and garlic paste, rice-vermicelli pilaf, and Arab sautÃ‰ed sweetbreads with a dose of ""sweet"" spices. The trouble is that the recipes have been fitted into one of those busy but oddly anonymous visual presentations where studio photographs with peasanty-looking props, location shots of fishing boats, instructional line drawings, and tinted sidebars about local foods and wines crowd each other for your attention. It's to be hoped that the American edition will improve on the weakly conceived, unintelligently photographed section on ingredients in the BBC Books original. For an introduction to this territory, Paula Wolfert's Mediterranean Cooking (1976) still carries the day. Roden's special charm is somewhat wasted in these overproduced surroundings.