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Vegetarian dishes have long been a large part of Mediterranean diets, especially on the Greek Isles where there’s little space for animals to graze. With simple, often very straightforward preparations, the region makes the most of the bounty of vegetables available. We explore some of the cuisine’s most flavorful meals made with Aglaia Kremezi.
- Aglaia Kremezi Author, 'Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts'
Vegetarian Greek Recipes
Crispy Cheese Pie (Lazy Woman’s Pie)
This is my adaptation of the cheese pies Balkan women prepare whenever they fire the wood ovens. They are easy and fast to make. The thin, crackerlike cheese pastry is called tis tembelas (“lazy woman’s pie”) in Epirus, at the northwestern edge of Greece, no doubt because it is not a proper pie with several sheets of phyllo and stuffing; often it is a simple batter of flour, eggs, crumbled feta, and milk, spread on a sheet pan and browned instantly to crispy perfection in a blazing-hot wood-fired oven. My version, even the one with commercial frozen phyllo—which I rarely use—is extremely simple and highly addictive! Vegetables or greens are sometimes added, if you are feeling ambitious. Serve as a main course with soup, or accompany with a large salad of steamed or fresh vegetables. Cut into bite-size pieces and serve as finger food.
Serves 3 to 4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as part of a meze spread
Olive oil, for brushing the baking sheet and the phyllo
- Ingredients for the egg wash:
2/3 cup (160 ml) milk
2 sheets homemade phyllo or 4 sheets frozen thick phyllo, thawed according to the package instructions
2 cups (240 g) crumbled feta or a combination of feta and ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (50 g) grated Parmesan (optional—for when using frozen phyllo)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, thyme, or marjoram
1 to 2 teaspoons Maraş pepper or a good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Preheat the oven to 430˚F (225°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with olive oil.
Make the egg wash: In a bowl, whisk together the milk and the eggs.
If using homemade phyllo: Stretch or crimp one sheet of phyllo as necessary to fill the baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with half of the feta or ricotta. Pour half of the egg wash over the feta or ricotta and sprinkle with herbs and Maraş pepper, if you like. Lay the second sheet of phyllo over the egg wash and brush with olive oil. Crumble more feta or ricotta on top and drizzle with the remaining egg mixture. Sprinkle with more pepper, to taste. Proceed to baking.
If using frozen phyllo: Lay one sheet of frozen phyllo on the baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and sprinkle with half the Parmesan, then lay one more sheet on top and brush again with olive oil. Sprinkle half the feta mixture over the second sheet. Place the third sheet on top, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan, then lay the last sheet on top and brush again with olive oil. Crumble more feta on top and drizzle with the remaining egg mixture. Sprinkle with more pepper, to taste. Proceed to baking.
Bake on a rack in the lower part of the oven for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Check to make sure the pie is well browned at the bottom. If the top browns too quickly, cover loosely with foil and continue baking. If it is well browned underneath but the top is not yet crispy enough, heat the broiler and bake for a few minutes right under the broiler. Serve at once, cutting pieces with a pizza wheel.
Orange and Olive Oil Carrots
You can halve the recipe, but I like to make more because these carrots are addictive and extremely versatile. I like to keep a bowl in my refrigerator ready to add to salads, grain pilafs, and soups, or just to eat with grilled cheese or fish. My dogs love them too, so I use them as treats!
Makes about 4 cups (about 600 g)
1 1/2 pounds (680 g) medium carrots, preferably organic, sliced into 1/8-inch (3-mm) rounds (use a mandoline or a food processor)
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
1 cup (240 ml) fresh orange juice
Maraş pepper or freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed sauté pan and add the carrots. Sprinkle with the salt and sauté, tossing often, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the carrot slices are coated with olive oil.
Add the orange juice and cook, uncovered, tossing often, for about 10 minutes, until the carrots are tender and the orange juice has evaporated. Add pepper, taste, and correct the seasoning. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Sautéed Olives and Carrots with Preserved Lemon and Thyme
“This preparation is a recipe from my father,” writes French chef Guy Gedda, describing a combination of sautéed carrots and olives, cooked either with milk or rich, thick crème fraîche. Sweet carrots and salty-bitter olives complement one another beautifully, probably better than the braised onions and olives that have been in my repertory of quick bites for years. Inspired by Gedda’s dish, I decided to rework my mother’s recipe for carrots with orange juice and olive oil, as I remember them from my childhood. She called them “caramelized” to appeal to our sweet tooth, I guess, but she never used sugar, just freshly squeezed orange juice and olive oil (recipe follows). I prefer to keep the olives unpitted to preserve as much flavor as possible. If you do want pitted olives, pit them yourself or choose them carefully, as most pitted olives tend to be too salty and otherwise tasteless. Slivers of preserved lemon and a combination of dried and fresh thyme, or my Eastern Mediterranean spice and herb blend, add the final touches to this very simple dish. VEGAN GLUTEN-FREE
Serves 6 to 8 for meze
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
2/3 pound (about 300 g) full-flavored, brine-cured black olives (like Pelion or Niçoise), rinsed and dried on paper towels
2 cups (480 ml) Orange and Olive Oil Carrots (recipe follows)
1/4 preserved lemon peel, rinsed, dried, and cut into thin strips2 teaspoons dried thyme, or Eastern Mediterranean Spice and Herb blend (page 000)
1 teaspoon Maraş pepper or chili pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved, each half cut into 4 wedges (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and toss for a few seconds until fragrant and discard. Add the olives, carrots, and preserved lemon to the skillet and sauté over medium-low heat, stirring carefully for 2 to 3 minutes, until just heated through.
Remove from the heat and add the dried thyme or spice blend and Maraş pepper, and toss. Transfer the mixture to a shallow dish, sprinkle with the fresh thyme and serve warm or at room temperature, with lemon wedges, if you like.
Grilled Feta, Tomato, and Pepper with Olive Oil and Oregano(Bouyourdi)
Bouyourdi hardly needs a recipe. One or two slices of good tomato, a lavish slice of feta cheese and pieces of bell and hot pepper are doused with olive oil, generously sprinkled with oregano, and grilled in a very hot oven. Bouyourdi is brought to the table directly from the oven, often in individual clay pots, and enjoyed with plenty of fresh crusty bread to sop up the scrumptious oil. Although served as a meze in Greece, it can also be a wonderful breakfast or brunch dish for the whole family. GLUTEN-FREE
1 large vine-ripened tomato
4 slices feta cheese (about 2/3 pound / 300 g total)
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced into thin rings
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped, or a few pinches Maraş pepper or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
About 1/2 cup (120 ml) good olive oil
1 tablespoon Greek oregano, or more to taste
Thick slices of fresh, crusty bread
Preheat the oven to 430˚F (220°C).
Spread a double layer of paper towels on a large dish. Core the tomato carefully, slice horizontally into 5 to 6 pieces, and spread them on the paper to drain.
Oil a shallow 8- or 9-inch (20- or 23-cm) baking dish, or four individual ramekins, and spread the tomato slices at the bottom, reserving 4 nice slices for the top. Sprinkle with some jalapeño and bell pepper slices. Arrange the feta pieces on top, place one tomato slice on each piece of cheese, and finally place 2 or 3 bell pepper rings on the tomato. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and the remaining jalapeño, and transfer to the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the feta turns a light-golden color and the oil is sizzling. Serve immediately with warm bread.
MS. JEN GOLBECKWelcome back. I'm Jen Golbeck from the University of Maryland sitting in for Kojo. For some it may bring to mind gyros and roast lamb, but the not-so-secret secret many vegetarians know, you'll always eat well in a Mediterranean restaurant where dishes overflow with flavorful eggplant, tomatoes, chick peas and lentils prepared simply but with generations of tradition behind them in tried and true dishes.
MS. JEN GOLBECKJoining us today is an authority in Greek cuisine who drives that truth home with a new cookbook devoted to the vegetarian dishes of the Mediterranean. Aglaia Kremezi, thanks for joining us.
MS. AGLAIA KREMEZIOh, thank you for having me.
GOLBECKWe're very excited about this conversation and you can join us. If you're a vegetarian, do you find you gravitate towards recipes and dishes from certain cuisines? Tell us what you found to be reliable. You can join us by calling 1-800-433-8850 or sending us an email to email@example.com. Some call it Greek, others Middle Eastern but it all falls under the umbrella of Mediterranean cuisine. Just how closely related are the dishes of the Balkan, the Greek Isles and Turkey to one another?
KREMEZIWell, they're quite close because they all rely on the same ingredients. And as you know, Mediterranean cooking is not so much into technique and stuff like that, but basically it's using the ingredients that we find or that we can grow and doing the best with it because this is what we had. This is poor people's cuisine, usually at least. Now we -- of course we impart everything but that's how it used to be and that's why all these wonderful vegetarian dishes were created.
GOLBECKAnd you know that a lot of these dishes are vegetarian because it was necessary. That's what you had. You didn't have meat as part of your diet growing up on the Greek Isles.
KREMEZIAbsolutely. Absolutely. There was no meat. I mean, there were goats and sheep but basically to drink milk and to make cheese. So -- and then hens to lay eggs. So meat is a festive thing. Basically, it was a festive thing. And we have an array of very interesting vegetarian dishes, seasonal, of course, with things that would grow or we could forage from the hills and the various meadows around, you know, the islands and the cities.
GOLBECKSo putting together a vegetarian cookbook, you didn't have to do a lot of adapting of meat-filled recipes to create this collection.
KREMEZINot at all. Not at all actually.
GOLBECKDo you have a garden now?
KREMEZIYes, I have a garden. I have a garden and we cultivate all kinds of seasonal vegetables. We don't have a lot of water unfortunately though. It's quite arid.
GOLBECKWhat's your favorite thing to grow in your garden?
KREMEZIGreens, greens, all kinds of greens. So this -- because we grow the greens in the winter, one, we don't have to water the garden, and because watering the garden is quite a lot of work and it's kind of like sand.
GOLBECKI grew up in northern Illinois which is a cold place. And I've been here in D.C. and greens are a thing that I've discovered since I came here. And you actually can grow them deep into the winter here in D.C., which is amazing. So I love them too because I can keep them going for a long time.
GOLBECKWe'd love it if you would join the conversation. You can give us a call at 1-800-433-8850. Not only are vegetables what's available, you also note that they don't have to be fussed over much to make a delicious meal. What surprises American visitors to your school about some of the dishes you prepare there?
KREMEZIWell, exactly what you said, that there were things that was taken for granted. For example, braising green beans in tomato sauce or braising okra in tomato sauce. And I never thought of teaching these in the classes that we do on the island. But then people were so amazed and they were kind of like they wanted the recipe of these dishes. So now they're part of a -- so cooking vegetables, I mean, braising them with tomato sauce with a little bit of onions, that's it -- that's what you need. And then supplementing with some cheese. You know that Greeks are -- the nation eating more cheese than anybody else in the world.
GOLBECKI didn't know that.
MR. JAMES SCHAMUSMore than the French, yes. So because these basically vegetarian dishes supplemented with some cheese, basically feta in Greece or other fresh cheeses all around the Mediterranean become a full meal with freshly baked bread of course, which we make. And that's it. You don't need anything else.
GOLBECKAnd my guess, coming from an American perspective, is that these sort of very basic and easy-to-prepare vegetable dishes are surprising because we come from a culture where you get your vegetables out of a can or they're frozen and then you microwave them and put them on the table. A lot of people do it. And so it's amazing to have vegetables that are prepared this way, even though it's really simple.
KREMEZIYeah, but now you have such wonderful farmers markets and such wonderful, I mean, seasonal produce. So this is what I want to show in this book. That's why, in the beginning, I explain what to do and how to shop in the farmers market and what to do with the things that you get from the farmers markets. And if you kind of like half cook them or pre-prepare them when you buy them, let's say during the weekend where most of the farmers markets happen, then during the week you can prepare a lot of different dishes with these half-prepared vegetables. So I have this kind of like game plan in the beginning of the book.
GOLBECKAnd on that note, a lot of home cooks worry that they don't have time. Everyone's always in a rush. And you stress that meal preparations don't have to take a lot of time. So tell us how people can be ready to throw dinner together really fast.
KREMEZIWell, that's what I'm saying. For example, buying -- this time of the year, you have wonderful squash so you can...
GOLBECKGreat squash, yeah.
KREMEZIIt's wonderful and greens. So you can buy squash. You can peel it and kind of like dice it and roast it in the oven. And then during the -- and keep it, you know, in the refrigerator. And during the week you can make either a salad, kind of like rewarming then make a salad or you can mash it and make a soup, adding a little bit of -- I like very much oranges with squash, for example, and some spices, some Middle Eastern spices.
KREMEZIAnd you make a soup. Or you can also mash it and add some -- make a risotto and add the squash. Or you can make -- you can add cheese and make it into a flan, you know, this roasted squash. There are a zillion things that you can do with a little bit -- you know, with just pieces of squash.
GOLBECKOne simple dish that combines ingredients we might not put together is a recipe for sautéed olives and carrots with preserved lemon and thyme. What inspired you to create that dish?
KREMEZIWell, I didn't create it. Actually it existed. Most of the dishes were not my creations. They have a little -- I have often kind of like added my twist but this is an old dish because, you know, again people had olives and people had carrots at various times of the year. So the sweetness of the carrots compliments the spiciness and the saltiness of the olives. So this is -- you know, this is a dish that you can do very easily.
KREMEZIAnd the way I do the carrots, as my mother has taught me, just slicing them thinly and then cooking them -- precooking them in olive oil and orange juice again. Orange juice in the winter, I use a lot of orange juice in the savory dishes and also orange zest. So if you precook the orange slices you can -- the carrot slices, you can have them in the refrigerator again as a staple that you can do many things with it. I mean, add it to salads, add it to pasta or anything, or you can just reheat them with olives and some spices and the little bit of preserved lemon, which is a very interesting thing to have.
KREMEZIIf you have lemons you can make preserved lemons which are salted lemons that you keep in a jar. You can buy them. It's a very interesting ingredient. And then that's it, and then fresh thyme or dried thyme. And, oh, there are, you know, the carrots and the olives.
GOLBECKI'm going to make this tonight I think.
GOLBECKAnd our listeners can find this and other recipes from the book over at kojoshow.org. Many fans of Greek food are drawn by the cheese, feta in particular. It's familiar sprinkled on salads, but tell us about your recipe for grilled feta with tomato and pepper.
KREMEZIOh, this is another very easy thing to make. You just slice the tomatoes. It's not very seasonal now of course. You slice tomatoes. You add some olive oil, a slice of feta cheese and then a slice of pepper, a little bit of olive oil and oregano and a little hot pepper. I love hot pepper. And you bake it in a very hot oven for something like 10 minutes, 15 minutes and then you eat it with a lot of bread, fresh bread because it has wonderful juices.
GOLBECKThat sounds great. If you can put your headphones on, we're going to take a caller now. We have a call from Storm in Columbia, Md. Storm, you're on the air. Go ahead.
STORMHi. I just wanted to give a shout out to Indian cuisine as a vegetarian, as one of the easiest things for me to eat and to make too because it's all vegetable and sauce, the rice-based, especially. I know it's very similar to a lot of Mediterranean food but that's probably my go-to for vegetarian food.
GOLBECKStorm, thank you. And there are actually a lot of very similar ingredients.
KREMEZIThey're similar but they're also different. But Indian cuisine is also wonderful, of course. I mean, of course.
GOLBECKWe're going to take a quick break . We're discussing Aglaia Kremezi's new book "Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts." I'm Jen Golbeck sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi and we'll be back after this break.
GOLBECKWelcome back. I'm Jen Golbeck from the University of Maryland sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. I'm talking with Aglaia Kremezi about her new book "Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts." And you can join the conversation with us. Do you tend to favor simple preparations or go for more elaborate recipes at home? Tell us about your style. Or if you have questions about Green cuisine in particular or Mediterranean food in general give us a call. You can reach us at 1-800-433-8850 or send us a tweet to @kojoshow.
GOLBECKPhyllo dough is another ingredient that's a hallmark of Mediterranean cuisine. And I admit that I have a very hard time working with phyllo when I try to do it. Before we talk about ways we might use it, tell us how you make it because I've always bought it frozen in those rolls where it sticks together.
KREMEZIYes. And this froze -- they stick together and it's kind of like it's quite bothersome. That's why I explain exactly how to do it and I also give -- I mean, I have a -- the dough is very simple. It's just flour, water, olive oil and a little vinegar and a little bit of salt of course. And then you roll it with a very long thin pin traditionally in the Mediterranean. But even if you -- there is a technique that the technique is explained in the book with pictures as well. And if you practice you can do quite good phyllo for all kinds of savory pies.
KREMEZIOf course, if you want to make baklava you need to make it very thin and you need to practice more. But I also have a little trick for people who start now and who are not able to make it thin enough. You can add a little bit -- just a dash of yeast and then it becomes nice and flaky also. So you don't need to roll it very thick because homemade phyllo is so much better than store-bought. But I also have substitutions on how to make, you know, the store-bought phyllo more edible because we eat it -- the phyllo is part of the pie. It's not like the wrapping only.
GOLBECKAnd if someone listening is intimidated by the idea of making their own, you do have -- I've noticed in some of the recipes here's how you do it with the homemade and here's how you do it with the store-bought.
GOLBECKSo you have those tips there in the book.
KREMEZISure, absolutely. Absolutely.
GOLBECKMany listeners might be familiar with spanakopita, a traditional spinach and cheese pie which you feature in the book. But you also have a recipe which was making my mouth water when I was getting ready for the show for a crispy cheese pie from the Balkans. When is the dish traditionally made and what makes it sort of addictive?
KREMEZIWell, this is kind of like a last-minute thing when somebody drops by and you don't have anything else. You just roll phyllo or you take store-bought phyllo and you make an egg wash with eggs and milk. And you add some feta to the phyllo and then you bake it. Just two sheets of phyllo. Not even bother to wrap anything around. It's kind of like watery. And then you bake it in a very hot oven and it becomes like a crispy thing, like a cracker.
KREMEZIAnd it's called - because this is kind of like last-minute thing and you can make it with whatever you have in very -- kind of like in 30 minutes, it's called the lazy woman's pie. (speaks foreign language) it's called in the north.
GOLBECKI love that. We have a bunch of calls coming in. You also can join us. If you'd like to talk to us about Greek or Mediterranean, give us a call at 1-800-433-8850. Let's start with Margo in Springfield, Va. Margo, you're on the air. Go ahead.
MARGOGreat, thank you. I just had a comment. I'm in the process of transitioning my family to a vegetarian lifestyle and I have two small children, a seven-year-old and a two-year-old. And the biggest obstacle that I faced are all the little tips and helpful hints for basic everyday food preparation. Growing up I watched my mom and my grandmother who were both excellent cooks, but everything usually revolved around meat as a main course. So everything that I grew up on was marinating and grilling and all of that. And I'm tending right now to make things more complicated than they need to be.
MARGOSo I find what I'm hearing right now very helpful, just those little basics. And the simple entrees for a weeknight dinner are very helpful. So I just wanted to thank you and I find it very interesting.
KREMEZIThank you very much.
GOLBECKAnd, yeah, so for a caller like this who has kids and is making this transition and maybe isn't as familiar with how to prepare vegetarian food, which is definitely a thing to learn how to do, are there, you know, one or two recipes that you'd point her to in the book?
KREMEZIWell, all the recipes are extremely easy in the book. I specifically chose the easiest recipes because I basically want people to go into the kitchen and cook. I think that people who have not learned how to cook from their mothers and grandmothers, as I was happy to -- I was fortunate to have, they need simple recipes and kind of like things that are not -- and these recipes are not written in stone, by the way.
KREMEZIYou can make your own substitutions. If you don't have, let's say, this kind of spice, you can use another spice. If you don't have thyme you can use oregano. Or if you don't have this particular cheese you can use another. So it's -- these are just basic things to get you into the kitchen to start to rediscover the flavor -- the true flavors of vegetables.
GOLBECKAnd one favorite Greek dish that does have meat that you adapt here is pseudo moussaka. Is there anything lost in the vegetarian version? And tell us about the original version.
KREMEZIWell, I don't think anything is lost and actually the pseudo moussaka, it's a term my mother has invented. When I was growing up, I thought that it was a word that everybody was using. But then my first husband was really making fun of me so then I realized that it was kind of like a family word. But pseudo moussaka is the version of moussaka we usually cook in the summer when we want to have a cold entrée, you know, ready. It's just olive oil and some cheeses and walnuts or -- for example, here is a good substitution. Because you don't -- here the walnuts are not so good as they are in the Mediterranean, but you have the -- how you call the American...
KREMEZIOh, no, no, no, no, no. The -- they are like walnuts -- pecans.
KREMEZIOh, my god. Pecans are absolutely fantastic. We don't have pecans in the Mediterranean. So instead of walnuts you can use pecans for example. And the flavor, because I'm using exactly the same spicing as I use when I use meat, you don't have to say that this is a vegetarian version.
KREMEZIAnd the good thing about moussaka, this takes a bit of time to prepare but you can prepare it completely during the weekend and make several, you know, crocks or little pans. Bake one and then keep one in the freezer or in the refrigerator for up to four or five days and bake it later. Or even bake them and cool them and put them in the freezer and then reheat them with the pan. Because, you know, when you grill the eggplants to make it, when you make the sauce you can do that and keep it and have it, you know, for the next week or other.
GOLBECKThat's great. Let's take a call from Constantina in Arlington, Va. Constantina, you're on the air. Go ahead.
CONSTANTINAOh, hi. Good afternoon. I just wanted to comment on how delightful this show is. I'm first generation Greek American and I'm so excited to hear about all this talk of greens and things. I always have dandelions growing in my garden and people think it's very odd that I eat them so often at my lunchtime. And they're like, what are you eating today and what are you drinking, because I drink the juice that I cook the dandelions in as well.
KREMEZIOh, good for you.
CONSTANTINAOh yeah, it's so healthy. It's so healthy. And I just spent many summers in Greece as a child growing up. And for so many years here you never saw dandelions. And it's very impressive now to be able to go to a farmers market or walk into a Whole Foods and see, you know, dandelions on the shelf. But I just grew up with all these things that you were talking about, the braised string beans and the okra. And, oh, it's just so nice to hear this conversation.
CONSTANTINAAnd I have to say that one of my favorite Greek cookbooks is your other book, "The Foods of the Greek Islands." I always -- I love that. I always turn to that. If I don't have a family recipe that's written down, I always look there to think, well, maybe Aglaia has something that will...
KREMEZIOh, thank you so much. You know, this book is out of print now but it's coming in paperback next spring.
CONSTANTINAOh, that's great. I love it.
KREMEZISo maybe we will discuss -- I'll come back again.
GOLBECKWe'll put some things together and have lunch on the air.
CONSTANTINAIt's wonderful. Thank you so much.
KREMEZIThank you very much, Constantina.
GOLBECKThank you, Constantina. We have another probably fan call here from Alki in Reston, Va. Alki, you're on the air. Go ahead.
ALKIYes. Hi, (unintelligible) . My full name is actually (word?), a very Greek name. But this show is getting me so excited. I'm really excited to get your book. I am also first generation Greek American. My husband and I cook tons of Greek food and a lot of vegetarian dishes. And I just wanted to comment on one of the things that you were talking about in prepping for the week. A little trick that I do is, you know, on Sunday when it's a little bit slow, I'll chop up a bunch of onions and garlic and I'll throw them in the freezer, because most Greek dishes start with onion and oil and garlic in the pan.
ALKISo that's something that helps me save time. And another great thing with vegetarian dishes is that if you cook a lot of it, the flavor only gets better as the days pass. So it's really great as leftovers.
KREMEZIAbsolutely. Absolutely. You're absolutely right. Also do the same with peppers. Chop them and saute them and have them already sauteed in the refrigerator or in the freezer. And then you can make a risotto or you can make a sauce or you can add them to any kind of dish. Absolutely. Thank you very much.
GOLBECKThanks for your call.
GOLBECKAnd I confess, I am recently married but have been cooking for myself, one person, for a long time and I love to cook. But it's very hard to cook like one meal's worth of things. So I would frequently kind of cook a bunch of vegetables and rice and have, you know, five portions of it stuck in the frig for the rest of the week because you can combine it in a lot of different ways, which I think is an interesting point you make very clearly in your book.
KREMEZIYes. I mean, almost all vegetables, when you start cooking them, can have two or three different variations. They can appear in different, you know, versions which are not exactly the same. You see, this -- in the Mediterranean, as I told you, this is poor people's cuisine. And for months and months we were, let's say, stocked with zucchini. For two months we were stocked with zucchini.
GOLBECKEveryone knows that feeling, all zucchini.
KREMEZISo, yes, we had zucchini. But then we invented so many different things with -- dishes with zucchini that you don't even feel that you are saturated with zucchini, you know, every day. I mean, because you can make a pie with phyllo. You can make patties, I mean, fritters.
KREMEZIYou can hollow them and make them stuffed zucchini or you can make, you know, again, you can grill them in the oven and -- as you do the squash and then add them to any kind of grains or even with bread and some yogurt, some yogurt with a little bit of tahini and garlic. Make a wonderful sauce for any kind of grilled vegetable. And this is a full meal because then you eat bread or you eat an egg. Maybe you can make a fried egg or a boiled egg and that's it. You don't need to do anything else.
GOLBECKHardy greens like chard and spinach and beets and kale have become more common on Americans' plates. And rather than eat a dish of just one kind, you suggest finding the flavor mix that suits you. So how do you then prepare them?
KREMEZIWell, again, you can prepare them in different ways. The most basic way in Greece is in salad. So they are briefly blanched. Depending on what kind of greens they are. For example, dandelions need to be blanched in water. Then you drink the water which is great with a little bit of lemon. It's a wonderful tea. But greens then you can combine the bitter greens, which are the dandelion with some sweet greens like the chard or the spinach or this kind of greens that are sweet. And to make a combination a little bit of sour greens also. And you make a combination but each has his or her own combination. And you can add some herbs or some fresh herbs. And then we just simply dress them with olive oil and lemon. That's it, and it's a salad.
GOLBECKWe have a call from Christina in Bethesda, Md. Christina, you're on the air. Go ahead.
CHRISTINAHi. Can you hear me?
KREMEZIYes, of course.
CHRISTINAWonderful. First of all, I just want to say it's an honor to speak to your wonderful author. I just love your book.
KREMEZIOh, thank you.
CHRISTINAI also just have a quick tip for anyone who -- you were talking about spanakopita, that there is a girl in this area that makes spanakopita. Her name is Maria Nicholas. And she delivers to the home fresh, which is absolutely fantastic, the best I've ever had. I wanted to also ask you, what is your favorite phyllo brand? I have great difficulty finding them and some are not consistent. Could you please tell me what you find worth -- works best for you.
KREMEZIYou see, the fresher the better. I cannot really tell you. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I cannot really give you a brand because I'm not familiar. But I would suggest, for example, in -- I was in Montreal last week and they told me that there is somebody who makes fresh phyllo, not frozen, that you can buy fresh.
CHRISTINAIn the area?
KREMEZIAnd I'm sure -- in Montreal. And I'm sure there will be in this area.
CHRISTINAOh, okay. That's very rare to find.
KREMEZISo try to find fresh phyllo because fresh phyllo makes -- and I'm sure in ethnic markets in Middle Eastern, Turkish and Armenian markets, you will definitely find fresh phyllo.
CHRISTINAWonderful. Thank you so much. I'm excited about your book.
GOLBECKThanks, Christina. So we're transitioning into baked goods and the breads here. And before I get to my question, we have one from Joan who emails and says, "Please ask your guest if Greeks make sour cherry rolled pastry dessert with phyllo as they do in the Balkans," which sounds great.
KREMEZIWe make some rolls in phyllo with -- not with just sour cherry, with any kind of fruit preserves. But with sour cherries also. It's not very common though. In the Balkans it's -- this -- the roll that the make in the Balkans, it has a special phyllo and is a little bit -- quite tricky to make. But I know it and it's really wonderful.
GOLBECKSo I have a question to wrap up for you. You've been traveling outside of Greece for the last week or two, promoting your book I presume. And I wonder, what do you most look forward to eating when you travel to the United States?
KREMEZIWhen I travel, because I like to eat kind of like not very much cooked dishes, but interesting ingredients, I try to eat, for example, salmon here because we don't have very -- I mean, salmon is imported in the Mediterranean and we don't -- or your wonderful clams and this wonderful seafood that you have here, which is very different from ours. And also ethnic cuisines that are not really strong in my country, like Chinese for example. You have wonderful Chinese cooking here.
KREMEZIThese are basically the things that I'm looking for. But I also enjoy very much some chefs food which, you know, there are wonderful chefs here. And I'm really honored to work with Chef (unintelligible).
GOLBECKOh, of course, my favorite.
KREMEZIAnd, you know, they are -- I mean, their foods are something like, you know, unbelievable. So I'm really looking forward to eating foods there.
GOLBECKAglaia Kremezi is an authority on Greek cuisine and author of the new book "Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts." Thank you so much for being with us.
GOLBECKI'm Jen Golbeck filling in for Kojo Nnamdi. Thanks for listening.
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