Greek food authority Vefa Alexiadou has written 13 cookbooks and they've been compiled in "Vefa's Kitchen," published by Phaidon Press. That's the house who brought us Spain's "1080 Recipes" and Italy's "The Silver Spoon," both classics in their regions. In her country, Alexiadou has sold more than five millions books and has her own TV show. She lives in Athens and the Halkidiki peninsula in Greece.
"Vefa's Kitchen" is a treasure box of octopus, beans, phyllo dough, stewy garbanzo dishes, game birds, fish stews, pilafs, and long-cooked vegetables. You look at photos of this food and you can imagine some grandmother toiling away in a small kitchen on a Greek island.
Nothing about this cooking is particularly beautiful, but the dishes seem sensible and classic. An omelet (a kind of frittata) filled with egg noodles, more than half a pound of feta, and half a dozen eggs made me want to run out for ingredients and head to the stove.
Small egglant stuffed with ground beef, tomatoes, and kefalotiri cheese, topped with white sauce, are homely but exceptionally appealing.
Taramosalata, the classic Greek spread, is one of my favorite dishes (it's the pink one in the middle, below). The main ingredient, cod's roe, can be quite strong. Alexiadou's tip is to mix pink and white fish roe (white is more expensive but milder, she writes), so you get the pink color without the fishy flavor. Or dilute the roe with boiled potatoes in place of soaked white bread.
6 thick slices of day-old bread, crusts removed or 7 ounces potatoes, cooked and peeled
7 ounces cured cod's roe
1/4 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup mixed olive and corn oil, or to taste
5 tablespoons lemon juice
3 scallions, finely chopped (for garnish)
Handful pitted kalamata olives, chopped (for garnish)
1. Tear up the bread. In a bowl, combine the bread and enough water to cover it. Set aside for 5 minutes. Lift out the bread, squeeze it out, and transfer to a bowl. Coarsely chop the potatoes.
2. In a food processor, combine the roe, onion, and 1/3 cup of the oil. Work the mixture until the roe is broken down and the mixture is blended.
3. Add the bread or potato a little at a time until the mixture is smooth.
4. With the motor running, add the remaining oil in a thin steady stream until the mixture is smooth. Add the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning. If you like, add up to 1/4 cup more oil. If the mixture is too thick, thin with club soda or sparkling water. Beat until light.
5. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and chill for several hours. Sprinkle with scallions and olives. Adapted from "Vefa's Kitchen"
What's cooking in the world of food.
ContributorsSheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.
Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.
Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.