The Power of Frugal Greek Cookery

For this year’s Oxford Food Symposium I undertook the huge responsibility to cook the final, Saturday dinner for the 280 participants. Among them were some of the most well-known British and American authors, journalists, historians, scientists, and chefs.

Santorini fava (yellow split peas) topped with capers and herbs.
 David Tanis and Claudia Roden enjoyed the braised snails, which had previously created quite a sensation in St Catz’ kitchen as chef Michael Costa was washing them, trying to prevent them from escaping…

Greek frugal cooking –the simply braised snails in onion-tomato sauce, or the slow-cooked lamb with lemon and oregano– can show its real power in an intimate, family environment. Only when chef Michael Costa, my talented, tireless friend, accepted to leave his very busy kitchen in Washington DC and come to cook at St Catherine’s college did I decide to undertake the difficult exercise of presenting in volume, for 280 people, dishes meant for a small circle of friends and family. (more…)

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Fassolakia (green beans) from my Mother’s Kitchen to José Andrés’ Book!

We take for granted some of our most favorite summer vegetable dishes, like this one that I learned from my mother and I cook often, as Costas is particularly fond of it too.

But it took me some time to decide and include it in the foods we prepare with the guests who take part in our Cooking Vacation classes. I considered it too simple and kind of self- evident. I was even more surprised when I saw that JoséAndres, the renown chef and humanitarian, included my recipe in his wonderful new book!

He mentions Kea and writes that his mother’s version of braised green beans was almost identical, minus the potatoes. He concludes his head-note saying “…play around and put your own stamp on this lovely Mediterranean dish.” (more…)

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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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Our Daily Yogurt is not ‘Greek Yogurt’

Adapted from a piece I had written for the Atlantic Food/Health blog.

 

Among my fondest childhood memories are summer afternoons under the shade of our fig tree, my father just up from his siesta drinking coffee, as yaourtas (the yogurt man) came to deliver the red clay bowls of freshly made yogurt, not yet completely cold.

My mother was rushing to the kitchen to bring back yesterday’s cleaned pots, which our yogurt man placed at the top shelves of his tin, two-doored cupboard, which had a handle at the top for carrying. With his cupboard/briefcase briming with freshly made yougurt pots covered with parchment paper neatly crimped at the rim, he visited the homes around our neighborhood. We lived in Patissia, where houses were surrounded by vast gardens, and we often had to chase somebody’s sheep and goats that sneaked in my grandfather’s vast property parts of which he rented to flower growers. Then the area was the outskirts of Athens; now it is completely unrecognizable as it became one of the most densly built parts of the city. (more…)

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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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