Yogurt and Herb Pies Wrapped in Grape Leaves

In this recipe, the cornmeal-thickened yogurt with scallions and herbs, baked or fried and wrapped in tangy grape leaves, develops into an unexpectedly sophisticated “pie” with complex flavor.

In an earlier version, I made a large pie that I baked in the oven. It was good, but difficult to divide into portions. Paula Wolfert suggested small fried “packets,” which worked much better. Now I propose something in between: individual little pies, baked in tartlet pans or shallow muffin tins. When finished under the broiler, the grape leaves caramelize beautifully! Serve with risotto or any grain pilaf.

My friend, David Tanis has created and published in the New York Times his own brilliant version of the recipe using chard leaves instead of the grape leaves.

 

 

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Oven-roasted Summer Vegetables, Briami

We often roast the vegetables in the wood-fired oven and they become even more delicious and smoky. But even in the conventional oven, with the addition of some pimenton –the Spanish smoked pepper– if you like, this is a glorious and extremely easy dish to make.

When we were kids, before we had an electric stove with an oven, my mother used to get to our neighborhood’s bakery a pan of mixed vegetables well-doused in olive oil and sprinkled with oregano and other herbs. It was roasted in the communal oven, after the breads were baked, and we collected it just before lunch. Especially practical on summer days when we went swimming, as the baker was left to cook our lunch!

Serve it either warm or at room temperature, preferably with the addition of feta cheese, and fresh, crusty bread! These days we may just roast eggplants and peppers, omitting the potatoes if we want to serve the vegetables with rice or bulgur (see the Variation).

 

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Avgolemono: the Elegant Egg and Lemon Sauce

The most sophisticated of the Greek sauces, avgolemono, a sauce of eggs and lemon juice, seems to have its roots in the Sephardic agristada. It probably came with the Jews who settled in Greece in the 16th century, fleeing from Spain and the Inquisition. Lamb-Avgolemono

Agristada and avgolemono both cleverly use eggs beaten with lemon juice to create an emulsion which thickens the cooking juices, much in the way the French use tangy crème fraîche.

Avgolemono is used with meat, fish, or just with vegetables. Fish soup avgolemono is usually cooked during the cold winter months, and magiritsa, the traditional Easter soup prepared with lamb innards and flavored with scallions and dill, is popular all over Greece. The elegant avgolemono is often abused in restaurants where flour is used to thicken and stabilize it so that it can be endlessly re-heated. It is sometimes called ‘fricassée,’ from the French chicken dish whose white, flour-thickened sauce has neither eggs nor lemons.

Here on Kea I learned to make avgolemono with the winter wild greens that are cooked with pork, while in the spring it complements the local, thorny artichokes that we braise with fresh fava pods and complement with an extra lemony avgolemono made with the wonderful, deep-yellow yolks of my neighbor’s eggs.

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