Is my face red. My sister phoned to ask if my baklava recipe really needs 14 cups of honey. Sheesh! And I thought microwaving would make the dessert soggy. I’ve corrected my typo. That’s 1/4 cup for those who wondered.
While I sit in the penalty box and practice my proofreading skills, you might want to check out New Greek Cuisine by Aristedes Pasparakis and Byron Ayanoglu. This collaboration between one of Canada’s top Greek chefs and favourite food writers offers an updated and healthy revisiting of Mediterranean classics.
I’ll warn you; this is not for everyone. Remember my travel analogy? This book is for off-the-beaten-track adventurers. You won’t find greasy gyros or salty souvlaki in these pages. Here, nouvelle cuisine meets ancient Greece.
While most of the recipes can be made in a half hour, they usually require two non-stick pans, a hand blender and constant attention. Aristedes uses an oil-free searing technique he calls “pan-drying” which seals in the flavour and moisture, but takes a bit of practice. The book describes his technique as “a new paradigm in cooking, assimilating the best feature of Greek casserole cooking, French sauteing, and Chinese wok cooking.”
While there are plenty of classics, like melitzanosalata (eggplant dip), Aristedes isn’t afraid to play with traditions. His humus portokali adds orange and basil to an old stand-by, and he can’t resist jazzing up baklava with figs, dried apricots or chocolate. Despite the exotic sounding dishes, most of the ingredients are readily available or have a suitable substitution listed.
The recipes are as diverse as the Greek islands. The vegetable and legume section will keep the vegetarians happy, while the carnivores can enjoy unusual takes on pork, beef, lamb, rabbit and poultry — chicken, duck and rooster, no less. The trio of Cretan melon soups is a colourful and cool antidote to a hot summer day, and when the weather turns cold, the lamb and lentil soup will stave off a winter chill. While Aristedes creates fish and seafood recipes around items available in North America, the accompanying flavours are pure Mediterranean.
Even though I can’t pronounce all the dishes — psiloritis, mavromatika, soujoukakia smyrna — the crystal clear recipe descriptions dissolve any intimidation the spelling incites. For those who yearn for the exotic and are willing to push the comfortable culinary boundaries, these recipes are definitely worth a visit.