Editor’s note: Linda Avery returns with a review of Tessa Kiros’s new Greek cookbook. See what she thought of the book and the get the recipe for papoutsakia, a dish meaning “small shoes” — eggplants stuffed with a savory beef filling.
Food from Many Greek Kitchens
by Tessa Kiros
photos by Manos Chatzikonstantis
Facts: Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 336 pages, $35.00 (or Amazon at $23.10)
Photos: About 150
Give to: Greekophiles, cooks who love Greek flavors
When I saw Food from Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros, it quickly brought to mind Kiros’ 2009 book Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes. From my first glance at that book, I was totally enamored with its beauty and I fantasized about the experiences of this author. What was it like to be born in London to a Finnish mother and a Greek-Cypriot father? Moving to South Africa, Australia and Mexico before marrying and settling in Tuscany? Ugh. I felt so plain, so inadequate, so my-youth-was-spent-in-a-closet. But my spirits were buoyed when I could share in her experience through tasting her Ricotta Tart with a Chocolate Crust recipe. All was forgiven.
Where “Cloudberries” captured recipes from her heritage and world travels, Food from Many Greek Kitchens focuses on the land of her father. When I pick up a cookbook, I go to contents and get a lay of the land before moving through the book, but not with this one. Photos abound! There are as many mesmerizing slice of life/travelogue photographs as recipe photos. Even the food shots have wonderfully distracting backgrounds or objects accompanying them.
The structure is interesting. Recipes are divided into traditional foods, fasting foods, Easter foods, shared foods, and so on. Her headnotes are warmly personal whether educational, instructive, or speaking of the friend from whom she received the recipe. There is a mouthwatering photo of a pan of baklava cut ready for serving with a clove in the center of each baklava diamond. Kiros’ headnote begins “I love this Chanel bag-looking thing.” OMG – now I’ll never look at a Chanel bag without craving dessert (as opposed to the money it would take to buy one).
Some recipes require time and others are as simple as watermelon with feta. Moussaka is a favorite of mine but making a recipe for 12 doesn’t work for me. This individual serving recipe was very appealing (I even cut it in half). So go to the farmers market and grab eggplant, red onion and Italian parsley. Kefalotiri is a rather salty sheep’s milk (hard) cheese. If you can’t find it, Pecorino is a reasonable substitute.
Papoutsakia (Small Shoes)
These are basically the same ingredients as moussaka, but prepared differently and served in individual “shoe servings.”
4 long eggplants (about 9 ounces each), all of the same dimensions
About 1/2 cup olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
14 ounces ground beef
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine
2 14-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the béchamel
3 tablespoons butter
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
10 1/2 ounces milk, heated
A large pinch of nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons shredded Kefalotiri cheese
1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, sprinkle the cut sides with salt and leave them upside-down in a colander for half an hour or so to drain away any bitter juices.
2. Drizzle some oil into a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and when hot, add half the eggplant halves. Fry until deep golden and soft on both sides and when you prick the thickest part with a fork there is no resistance.
3. Remove to a platter and fry the remaining eggplant halves. When cooled, scoop out the flesh using a sharp spoon, leaving a 1/4– to 3/8- inch border. Chop the flesh and put aside. Wipe out the skillet. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to it and sauté the onion until golden. Add the beef and fry until browned. Add the garlic, cook for a moment more until it smells good, then add the wine and let it simmer for a minute or two. Add 1 can of tomatoes and the parsley, and season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook, stirring a couple of times, for about 20 minutes, or until thickened. Add the chopped eggplant and simmer for another 10 or 12 minutes, or until most of the liquid has gone.
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Make the béchamel
1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat and stir in the flour. Whisk the milk in gradually to ensure no lumps. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and a little pepper. Whisk until thick.
Finish the dish
1. Empty the remaining can of tomatoes over the bottom of a 10 1/2 x 13 1/2-inch roasting dish and add a little salt. Line up the eggplant shells on top, cut side up, and sprinkle with salt.
2. Divide the meat mixture among them. Dollop 2 to 3 tablespoons of béchamel on each, scatter some kefalotiri over and pour 1/2 cup of water around them. Bake until roasty (sic) and golden on top, about 30 minutes.