Pros: Amazing photography, authentic recipes, history and holidays of Greece
Cons: Not many. Would love to see photos of techniques not just finished products.
“Food From Many Greek Kitchens” by Tessa Kiros has to be one of the most beautiful cookbooks I have had the pleasure of reading and using. Not only are the recipes authentic the photos that accompany them are absolutely amazing and help set the context for the food. As you cook your way through the recipes it is easy to feel like you are making your way through many different homes in Greece.
The book begins with a brief introduction to the Greek alphabet which was difficult to understand the relevance. While it was thoughtful to include it did not lend anything useful to the book. It also includes in the beginning chapters a rudimentary glossary which while more useful than the alphabet but could have been expanded to include more terms. These two issues aside the book is wonderful.
Traditional Greek foods make up the first chapter and then the second and third are “fasting foods” and “Easter foods”. The order makes sense in that if you are to understand the Greek people and what matters most then you must pay attention to the order of these first chapters. Tradition and religion (fasting and Easter) is the core of every Greek home. If you are to truly appreciate the food of Greece you must understand the important of these two elements as they are a major influence on the cuisine. The fact that the author chose these first three topics to begin the book with shows the reader just how deeply she understands the Greek culture. All this to say that “Food From Many Greek Kitchens” is a wonderfully authentic book on Greek cooking.
Each chapter begins with a brief intro and history of the particular food topic. And the recipes that follow are often accompanied with little personal notes from the author (i.e “This is Roulla’s recipe. She showed us how…). This is something I really enjoy about this book. That there is a person behind the recipe not a team of recipe testers and that there is a long history to the recipes. You almost get the feeling that the book is more a compilation of a Greek grandmother’s recipes that they have waited to pass on to a loved one.While the photos are truly amazing, a nice addition would have been some photos of the techniques. There is no doubt that some of these techniques such as the Diples Fried Folds require a fair amount of practice.
The book’s recipes are not restricted to the mainland and seem to span many different geographic locations including the islands. It was one of the island recipes that I tested and was pleased with the results. A cook book can have the most beautiful photographs but if the recipes can’t be executed with great results then what’s the point?
Here is an interview with author Tessa Kiros about her book. Be sure to read to the bottom which includes a wonderful recipe from the book.
If you are fortunate enough to visit the island Santorini then you will find Tomota Keftedes (fried tomato fritters) on just about every menu. The tomatoes of Santorini are very special since they grow and struggle in the rich volcanic soil that makes up the island. It is these tomatoes that make this recipe such a special treat. Be sure (as pointed out by the author) that if you prepare these that they are with the best (freshest and ripe) tomatoes you can find.
TomatoKeftedes (Fried Tomato Fritters)
10 ½ ounces lovely ripe red tomatoes (about 3)
2 ½ ounces red onion, coarsely chopped (1 small)
3 heaping tablespoons coarsely chopped mint
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping teaspoon of baking powder
Olive oil for frying
Cut the top hats off the unpeeled tomatoes and discard. Slice the tomatoes into 6 wedges, then chop each wedge into 4 or 5 pieces. Scrape off the board into a bowl but leave behind the excess juice. Add the onion, mint and half the flour to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and knead in well. Leave for 10 minutes or so to soften. Make a paste with the remaining flour, the baking powder and 1/3 cup of water. Add to the bowl and mix in well. Heat olive oil to a depth of about 5/8 inch in a large nonstick skillet until very hot. Scoop up a good tablespoon of the mixture and with another spoon, scrape this into the hot oil in lovely irregular fritters. Fry a few at a time, turning them over when golden to fry the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with a little extra slat and serve on a clean plate.
The final word on “Food From Many Greek Kitchens” is highly recommended. If you have ever been curious about Greek food or you are Greek and want to learn more traditional foods this is an outstanding book to have in your library. I have said it too many times already but will mention in one last time in closing that the photography by Manos Chatzikonstantis is stunning. It is refreshing to see such a beautiful cookbook.