I’m so glad I finally pulled the book Food from Many Greek Kitchens out of my to-read stack. This is the latest from Tessa Kiros, and I received a review copy. I was charmed by the photos of life in Greece interspersed among the recipes and food photos. And, I was delighted by the number of vegetable and vegetarian dishes like the Wild Greens Pie, the White Bean Soup, Baked Okra, Beets with Yogurt and Pistachios, and Stuffed Tomatoes to name a few. Seeing the Saganaki recipe brought a smile to my face because it reminded me of my first dinner date with Kurt, and the fresh fish dishes made me want to book a flight to Greece to take in the view of the coast while enjoying the local seafood. The content is organized in a unique way too. Traditional foods appear in Chapter One, and those are the recipes that are typically included in celebrations like Vassilopitta or New Year Wish Cake and Baklava. Chapter Two is Fasting Foods, and these are recipes with no meat other than seafood, which of course appeals to me, and no eggs or dairy like Pureed Yellow Split Peas which I’ll return to soon. The other chapters are Easter Foods, Shared Foods, Baker’s Foods, Soups, Ladera and Salads, Ready-Cooked Foods which are slowly baked or roasted and made in advance, Then and There Foods which are quickly grilled or fried dishes, and Sweet Foods.
I bookmarked several pages, and immediately wrote a shopping list. One of the first dishes I tried was Tirokafteri or Spicy Feta which is a puree of roasted green chiles, garlic, olive oil, and feta cheese. It was fantastic with warm pita and olives as part of a meze. Next, I made the Baked Giant Butter Beans because I can never resist giant beans. After boiling the beans until cooked through, they were then baked with a cooked sauce of canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, and thyme. The beans became meltingly tender and full of flavor from the sauce, and it was a filling vegetarian stew. The third dish I tried, and the one I want to tell you all about today, was the Baked Stuffed Vine Leaves. I was intrigued by this because both the filling and cooking process were a little unusual for dolmades. The filling was a mix of rice and shredded vegetables including onion, mushrooms, carrot, and zucchini. The grated vegetables were cooked in olive oil with the rice, and grated fresh tomato should have been added but I used canned diced tomato instead. Parsley, mint, and lemon juice were added as well followed by grated kefalotiri cheese. Since I don’t have a vineyard nearby where I can snip leaves as needed, I used a jar of preserved vine leaves. I soaked the leaves in water and drained them before using. Spoonfuls of the filling were rolled into the vine leaves which were then packed into a large baking dish. Dolmades are usually steamed, but here, the dolmades in the baking dish were topped with more diced tomato, a cup of water, and a drizzle of olive oil before being covered with foil and placed in the oven for an hour. The foil was removed, and the dish was left to bake for another ten minutes.
The dolmades were delicious warm from the oven with a dollop of tzatziki on top, and I also loved them cold from the refrigerator the next day. I’m used to dolmades from restaurants that have a filling of mostly rice, so the savory mix of vegetables here was much more interesting. Cooking from this book was as much fun as the daydreams it inspired about an eventual trip to Greece.