One week on Cyprus was enough to hook me on Greek food forever. I absolutely loved the different combinations of sour yogurt and sweet vegetables, often accompanied by flaky pastry, that I found all over. The food was both fresh and comforting –worlds away from the heavy souvlakia sandwiches and moussaka that constituted Greek food in Astoria’s diners. But I’ve rarely cooked Greek inspired dinners at home, probably because I didn’t have a yia-yia to show me how. Which is why I took note when Couscous and Consciousness shared a recipe from Tessa Kiros’ Food From Many Greek Kitchens in a recent Weekend Cooking post, and ordered it from the library.
Who is Tessa Kiros? A European woman (mother from Finland, dad from Cyrus, born in London, now living in Italy) with an deep interest in the intersection of food and culture—which makes a lot of sense when you consider the intersection of fantastic cuisines she must have grown up with! She has written books addressing many aspects of her life – she is perhaps best known for her Nordic cookbook, Falling Cloudberries.
Take on Cooking: Traditional Greek home cooking, with an emphasis on regional specialties.
The Delicious Parts: This book is absolutely gorgeous – the sumptuous photos resemble a coffee table book about the Greek Islands. Kiros’ chapters don’t follow a traditional order – instead, they seem to reflect her thoughts on Greek food. The first four chapters explore Traditional Foods, Fasting Foods, Easter Foods and Shared Foods. The Greek Orthodox Church still observes a very strict fast during lent – no meat or eggs at all – so the Fasting Foods chapter was a natural source of vegetarian and vegan dishes.
My First Bites: I cooked four recipes from the book: Spanakopita (Spinach Pie), Tomatokeftedes (Fried Tomato Fritters), Spanakorizo (Spinach Rice) and Yiaourti (Yogurt on the Side). All of them were delicious. I actually used Kiros’ delicious Spanakopita filling in a simple phyllo pie, rather than make the individual rolls that she suggested, and everyone at the barbecue raved about it. My daughter inhaled the Spinach Rice – and it made a really delicious lunch later in the week, warmed up with the leftover Yiaourti.
Not Quite To My Taste: While I thought the flavors were fantastic, and the ingredients spot on, I did find myself modifying the cooking directions, adapting them to my modern kitchen. Some of the directions are complex — Kiros admits this herself – but as gorgeous as the book is, there are no illustrations of technique to help the reader through the difficult parts.
Recommendation? Devour, Split, Send it Back to the Kitchen? Devour or split, definitely – but I’d lean toward devour if you have a hole in your cookbook collection where a comprehensive guide to Greek cuisine belongs. I probably wouldn’t make many of the fussier, holiday-oriented recipes, but I can see making a great party out of the Mezedes (Shared Foods) section. I’d call it a great cookbook for a confident cook.
One Great Recipe: Tessa Kiros’ Spanakorizo
2 ½ pounds spinach, rinsed and drained (I used 12 oz baby spinach, and I thought the proportions were fine)
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 ½ ounces green onions, with some of the green, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (I used 3 teaspoons dried)
1 cup medium grain rice
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1) Coarsely chop the spinach leaves. Heat the olive oil in a very large pot and sauté the onions until pale gold and softened. Add the dill and sauté for 30 seconds or so then stir in the rice.
2) Now add the spinach. You might feel that it won’t all fit in the pot, but fit as much as you can. Add 2 cups of hot water and press down the spinach until it begins to wilt and it’s all in. Add a good amount of salt, turn the spinach over with a wooden spoon and put the lid on. Bring to a boil then turn through again. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. If there is still water in the bottom of the pot toward the end of this time, take the lid off and turn up the heat to let it evaporate. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and add a few grinds of pepper. Turn through gently and taste for salt. Add the mint. Cover with a clean dish cloth, put the lid back on for 10 minutes to steam. Serve hot or even at room temperature.
FTC disclosure: I did not receive a free copy of this book for review. I borrowed it from the library.
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