I've been mesmerized by the photographs from a new-ish cookbook by Tessa Kiros. I loved an earlier cookbook, Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes, mostly because it's an unlikely combination of Finnish, Greek and South African recipes, cuisines I've been lucky to know, in person, right in situ. (And long-time readers have seen two recipes from Falling Cloudberries, Lamb Roast with Lemon & Oregano and Homemade Finnish Mustard which is always -- always -- in my fridge.)
The new cookbook focuses on just one of those food traditions, Food From Many Greek Kitchens. The photos are only occasionally of food, mostly of home life, perhaps, I suspect, of a romantic notion of a home life that comes from another era. Rustic. Colorful. Everyday. Like photographs so old the faces are rubbed away. Church doors emblazoned with Greek crosses. Old flags and bottles and postcards and chairs. Shop windows with sausages and crusty loaves of bread. Greek Orthodox clerical robes. Well-worn kitchen bowls and cutting boards.
I also appreciate the cookbook's organization. My own cooking style is to start with the season, select an ingredient or two, then work from there. In Food From Many Greek Kitchens, there's another way of ordering the choices. Traditional Foods. Fasting Foods. Easter Foods. Shared Foods. Baker's Foods. Soups. Something called "Ladera" (usually simple vegetarian peasant food) and Salads. And while there are occasional sweets in the early chapters, the chapter titled "Sweet Foods" has only 25 pages in a 330 page book. (This has become a defining criterion for "good cookbooks" -- a high proportion of real food vs occasional treats.)
Leave it to me to pick one of the simplest recipes, "Fakes Lentil Soup". I was struck by the description, "This is a soup that most Greeks have grown up with." I loved this soup and am not embarrassed to mention that it was my breakfast several days in a row. (Why is it we don't choose soup more often -- ever? -- for breakfast?) It was hearty and healthy and belly-warming these chilly autumn mornings.
[Disclosure: The good folks at Andrews McMeel often pop a complimentary cookbook into my mailbox, including both these books by Tessa Kiros. They hope I'll write something nice about the cookbook. Some times I do, some times I don't, there's no obligation and no other compensation. When I do, it's always because I like the cookbook, or a recipe from the cookbook, and think readers might too. (And hey, I just noticed, Andrews McMeel has turned my friend Joyce Lock's great food trivia game into a Foodie Fight calendar!) ]
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RECIPE for GREEK LENTIL SOUP
Time to table: 90 minutes but improves with a rest overnight
Makes 8 cups
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary or fresh oregano
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
7 cups water
2 teaspoons table salt
1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) brown lentils
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons olive oil (see TIPS)
1 large onion, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
3 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
2 large tomatoes (or a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes)
Salt and pepper to taste
Good olive oil
HERB VINEGAR In a small serving bowl (preferably one that can go to the table), mix the vinegar with herbs and garlic. Set aside to steep at room temperature.
SOUP Bring water and salt to a boil.
Rinse lentils, add to pot. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, olive oil (if using), onion and carrot. Cover and bring to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer and let simmer for about 25 minutes.
With the large holes of a four-sided grater resting on a plate to catch the juices, grate the tomatoes (see TIPS). Add the tomato to the pot and let simmer for another 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft and plump and fully cooked.
Remove the cover and let cook for 5 to 10 minutes until the soup is thick and soupy. Remove from the heat, stir in 3 tablespoons of the Herb Vinegar. If needed, season with salt and pepper.
TO SERVE Scoop soup into bowls. Tableside, drizzle soup with remaining vinegar and, if you like, good olive oil.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
The inspiring recipe called for 6 tablespoons of olive oil. I opted for just two but think if you wanted to go really spartan, eliminate the oil entirely.
The grating technique separates the skins from the flesh. Usually the skins are discarded but I decided to throw them in the pot for more flavoring. All but a couple of large pieces disintegrated, no waste!
~ Oven-Cooked Lentil Soup ~
~ Summer Lentils ~
~ Julia Child's Lentil Salad ~
~ more recipes with beans & lentils ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Simple Lentil Salad with Seasonal Vegetables ~
~ Lentil Soup Vincent ~
~ Two-Way Lentil Skillet ~
~ more lentil recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
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