Moschari Lemonato–Veal and Potatoes in Lemon Sauce

This is my mother’s lemonato, the best I have tasted. Although this dish is commonly cooked at home all over Greece, it is rarely included in cookbooks. American veal is different from ours, in that comes from free range animals and, although very tasty, is tough and requires a special cooking method. I have adapted my mother’s recipe for the American and European veal. One of my aunts used to cook the meat with no other liquid but lemon juice, and her version was also delicious. But it had very little syrupy sauce—not enough for cooking the potatoes. I think this is a great disadvantage, because the potatoes are the best part oflemonato. In any case, the secret of this dish’s success is to keep the heat very low and to simmer the veal for hours.

250

Serves 4-6 (more…)

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Black-Eyed Pea, Ground Lamb, and Chard Stew

The one-pot meals of the eastern Mediterranean ingeniously combine seasonal vegetables, herbs, and greens with small amounts of meat to create delicious dishes that seem to be designed by a modern nutritionist. Aifer Unsal calls this stew borani—not to be confused with the vegetable and yogurt salads with the same name in the Middle East. Aifer is an outstanding cook and food writer from the Gaziantep—the part of southern Turkey that borders Syria. Apparently the Turkish term borani is used for various stews and salads. This recipe is my adaptation of Aifer Unsal’s borani, from the book Délices de Turquie, which has been translated into many European languages, including Greek.

245

The picture, as all the pictures in the book was done by Anastasios Mentis,
a very talented Greek photographer who works in New York.

Makes 4 servings (more…)

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The Origins of Mousaka, and my Sloppy Version

Based on my mother’s recipe my version of the ubiquitous dish is more like a gratin as it was probably in the old days.

Mousakas-pot-CUT-S

In the late ‘80ies, when I first started to research the origin of various popular Greek dishes, I was convinced that the current version of béchamel-topped mousaka was invented during the golden years of the Ottoman Empire, probably in the spectacular kitchens of Topkapi Palace, in Istanbul. Maybe a creative French-educated cook enriched the traditional Middle Eastern dish with the classic French sauce, I thought. But further investigation revealed that before the early twentieth century there was no mousaka as we know it today.

It is not surprising that the most popular Greek dishes throughout the world are not the chickpea or bean soup, the yellow split peas or the stewed mixed seasonal vegetables and greens that most Greeks ate regularly up until the late 1960ies. Those dishes only recently started to be part of the menu of upscale Greek restaurants, after the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet were publicized. Mousaka, pasticcio, Greek salad, and maybe youvetsi (baked lamb with orzo in tomato sauce) are the dishes most non-Greeks consider to be the epitome of Greek cooking. Yet, most of those dishes have very little to do with traditional foods.  They were developed, or drastically revised, by professional cooks and restaurant owners who were particularly interested to please the Athenian upper class of the early 20th century. The cosmopolitan Greeks of Smyrna (Izmir today) and Alexandria, in Egypt, were brought up eating mainly French-inspired foods in these prosperous cities of the Mediterranean, thus favored tamed, sweet and creamy combinations of traditional oriental favorites –like the eggplant casserole; dishes that also pleased the palates of European and American visitors. (more…)

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